AUGUSTA — For starting a fire that destroyed a Gardiner camper trailer a family was living in, Joseph P. Manganella, was sentenced Thursday to an initial three years behind bars.

A judge at the Capital Judicial Center imposed an eight-year sentence, with three years to be served initially and the remainder suspended, and three years’ probation.

The blaze occurred July 5, 2016, at the home of Eric and Kristie Baker and their three children, ages 7, 5, and 8 months at the time. The Bakers, who were building a cabin on the property, were not at home at the time of the fire.

They did not attend Tuesday’s sentencing hearing.

Manganella, 35, of Augusta and formerly of Windsor, pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to arson in connection with that fire.

Witnesses reported seeing a man — later identified as Manganella — walking away from the Blueberry Hill Lane fire.

He formerly worked for the Bakers’ roofing company and told Justice Robert Mullen on Tuesday that he had gone there looking for some of his things.

“I used my lighter as a light, and it caught the bed on fire,” Manganella said.

His attorney, Lisa Whittier, said, “Mr. Manganella was under the influence of drugs. He went into the trailer, which was only occupied by a dog. He put a lighter underneath bedding in a bed. It went up very quickly. He walked away and took the dog with him.”

Investigators said previously the fire was set to cover up a theft of tools that Manganella later attempted to sell.

Conditions of Manganella’s probation include a ban on the use or possession of illegal drugs and incendiary devices.

He also was ordered to pay restitution $2,500 for the benefit of the victims.

Manganella was arrested as he walked into the courtroom Tuesday on a charge of violating a protective order for allegedly having contact with a person at the courthouse. Attorneys indicated that charge would be handled Wednesday at the hearing for others in custody.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin, said Manganella had no prior felony record and had spent at most 75 days in jail previously.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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