Jury: Man tried to set wife on fire in Schenectady

He faces up to 25 years in prison on weightiest conviction
Firefighters in March at 53 Jay St. in Schenectady.
Firefighters in March at 53 Jay St. in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — Michael J. Harris Sr. is facing up to 25 years in state prison, after a jury found last week that he tried to set his wife on fire, along with a building, according to the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office.

Harris, 46, of Barrett Street, was found guilty of first-degree burglary, second-degree arson and second-degree attempted assault.

The jury found that he lit the 53 Jay St. home on fire just after 5:30 a.m. March 11, and that he tossed gasoline in the direction of his wife and tried to light her on fire as well, prosecutor Michael DeMatteo said.

The gasoline missed the woman, and neither she nor anyone else in the building was injured, DeMatteo said.

Harris and his wife got into an argument at a bar earlier that evening, DeMatteo said. Harris became physical with her before she left and he was removed from the bar.

She went to the Jay Street house with two other people. Harris was also convicted of falsely reporting an incident for initially telling police that his wife had been kidnapped, when she had left the bar voluntarily, DeMatteo said.

Later, Harris went to the Jay Street building and set it on fire using bottles filled with gasoline. As he did that, his wife exited and he tried to ignite her, DeMatteo said.

Several tenants were home at the time of the fire, and some had to be rescued from the building’s roof by the Fire Department.

Harris faces up to 25-year sentences for both the arson and burglary counts. Those terms would run together. He also faces potential consecutive time for the attempted assault — up to four years.

Attorney Lee Kindlon represented Harris. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Judge Kathleen Hogan presided.

The Harris incident came almost a week to the hour after Antonio Bargallo, 69, doused his wife, Elizabeth Gonzalez, 48, with gasoline and set her on fire. Gonzalez died of her injuries.

Bargallo later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 21 years to life in September.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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