Homeless Men Sentenced In Fatal Fire

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ELIZABETH – Two homeless men who had been indicted on murder charges for causing the death of an Elizabeth firefighter last year were sentenced on lesser counts Friday.

Emilio Vasquez and Jose Flores both expressed regret for the death of Gary Stephens, a 28-year-veteran of the Elizabeth Fire Department. Vasquez accepted sole responsibility for the fire that he and Flores were accused of setting to keep warm inside a vacant building in Elizabeth in January 2009.

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The fire got out of control. Stephens, one of the responding firefighters, is believed to have slipped on a patch of ice and was hit by the fire truck as it slowly backed up toward a hydrant, according to Assistant Prosecutor Michael Henn.

Vasquez, 20, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in state prison. Flores, 31, pleaded guilty to trespassing and was sentenced to time served. Both men are undocumented immigrants who will be deported to their native countries of Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively.


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