ARLINGTON — An Arlington man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree arson Tuesday in the February 2012 death of his landlord.
Prosecutors alleged that Gary A. McLaughlin III strangled Cynthia Goldman, 54, of Arlington, and then set the house on fire. The two reportedly had argued over his rent being overdue.
McLaughlin, 23, could face up to 20 years in prison under state sentencing guidelines.
The Feb. 15, 2012, killing was discovered when firefighters were summoned to Goldman’s burning home in the 18600 block of Silverleaf Place. The house was heavily damaged. Crews found Goldman’s body in the living room. Investigators also detected the smell of gasoline near where the fire started and Goldman’s body. The medical examiner later determined she’d been strangled before the fire started.
McLaughlin had rented a room in the home and a search of his room turned up a gas can in the closet. Witnesses told detectives that Goldman had problems getting him to pay his rent. They also heard from his friends that he reportedly had asked for help in establishing an alibi, and claimed he’d started the fire after Goldman died in “an accident,” according to court papers.
Arrested a couple of days after the killing, he reportedly told detectives that he’d choked her during a confrontation over unpaid rent, court papers said. After he realized she was dead, McLaughlin reportedly admitted to dousing her with gasoline and setting the house ablaze.
Both of the convictions are considered strikes under the Three Strikes Law, lawyers said in court Tuesday.
Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of about 13 years. McLaughlin remains in custody pending an Aug. 21 sentencing.