Updated 11/05/2012 04:58 PM
Man Accused of Setting Fire to Home with Children Inside Pleads Not Guilty
A Rochester man accused of setting his home on fire last week appeared in City Court on second degree arson charges. Jerome Tavolino, 37, pleaded not guilty to starting the Kilmar Street fire. Two children were home alone when the fire broke out and had to escape through a second story window.
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The fire was reported around 8:30 a.m. Friday. Two children, ages 11 and three, were home alone waiting for their mother to return so they could move out.
Tavolino is the owner of the home he shared with his live-in girlfriend, Tamar Hough, and her two children. The three-year-old is Tavolino's daughter.
Tavolino's family says he was drunk that morning and accidently started the fire, unaware the children were upstairs.
"He did not know, and the point of the story is I'm a mother. If I go home and I see my boyfriend is over drunk, either I'm going to stay there with my kids or I'm going to take them with me. It's not fair that he's getting all the blame," said Gaetana Tavolino, Jerome's mother.
Tamar Hough agrees that Tavolino was drunk, but says he knew the kids were in the home.
"He went upstairs and asked my son, Kimar Anderson, 'is your mom here?' Kimar said no. He walked downstair and light the fire then he walked out walked out drunk and closed the door. Kimar said 'where you going Jerome?" He just closed the door."
Tamar said the fire prevented her children from escaping down the stairs and Kimar acted quickly in getting himself and his sister out of the house.
"My son pulled my two kids through the window and jumped on down. He came like an hour after and said 'Tamar, what's going on? You okay?' I said 'I'm fine, you tried to kill my kids.' He tried to blame it on me that I burned the house down with my kids in there."
Tamar and Tavolino co-own a car dealership on Lake Avenue. Tamar says Tavolino damaged the business when she informed him that she was breaking off their relationship.
Hough also accuses Tavolino of ransacking a restaurant she used to own after she tried to leave him a couple of years ago. Tamar says the fire is the latest episode in what she calls a six-year abusive relationship.
"For the past six years, I've been trying to leave this man. I tried to sign some assets over to him so I can move on with my life. He wouldn't take anything. He told me he was going to kill me. He has a shotgun."
The only charge against Tavolino is arson. He remains in the Monroe County Jail on $50,000 cash bail and returns to court Friday.