HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Authorities in New Jersey say a fourth person died in a fire earlier this year that also claimed the lives of a 9-month-old daughter and her grandparents.
A Mercer County grand jury last week indicted 23-year-old Michael Sanders of Trenton on four counts of first-degree murder as well as felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated arson and causing or risking widespread injury or damage.
The charges stem from an early-morning fire July 9 in a duplex in Hamilton Township. The infant, Malani Sanders, and her grandmother, Tiffany Abrams-Jones, 42, were pronounced dead at the scene. Abrams-Jones’ husband, Prince Jones, 50, died two days later.
Prosecutors revealed Friday that a fourth person, 18-year-old Zamair McRae, died weeks after the blaze. NJ.com reports that officials identified McRae as the son of the grandparents who were also killed. Three other people, including the baby’s mother, were critically injured, authorities said.
Prosecutors have alleged that the baby's mother received a text message from Sanders shortly before the fire telling her to get their child out of the house. They allege that he bought what appeared to be a torch lighter and cigars from a convenience store and walked in the direction of the house minutes before the fire occurred.
A judge in July ordered Sanders held pending trial. Defense attorney Mark Fury argued in July for home detention, suggesting that his client may have been suffering a mental break. He said his client has no felony convictions and called prosecutors' evidence circumstantial, adding “There is no evidence of him setting the fire.”