Arson Confession Letter
By Sue Monteleone
ELDRED March 10, 2000 -- In an exclusive interview with the Sullivan County Democrat, Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen said this week that a letter has recently surfaced in his office regarding the actions of local resident Eric Hofaker, who is serving 17 years in state prison for setting fires in the Town of Highland.
In late 1999, Eric Hofaker was convicted for setting a fire at the Springhouse building in Barryville, and for setting an Eldred house on fire while people occupied the residence.
In the letter, which is currently under investigation by the Sullivan County District Attorneys office, the author claims to clear Hofaker of his actions and shift the blame to a person who recently died.
The letter stated that an unidentified person set up Hofaker to take the fall for setting the fires due to the two men fighting over a Labrador retriever. The person who claims to have written the letter further stated that he followed Hofaker home on the night a fire occurred in Highland, watched him go into his home, and then set the fire, calling in the fire from an outside phone box located at Hofakers home.
The letter I have seen has no factual events in it, said Lungen. Eric was found guilty, and that was clearly done with the evidence we obtained. It all pointed to him. The letter has no substance to it or any connection to anything we have dealt with in our case against Hofaker. All of the evidence against Hofaker was very clear and all circumstances were very clear.
Some of the evidence, said Lungen, included Hofakers own fingerprints on the fire scenes, voice recordings, phone traces leading to Hofakers own residence, Hofakers arrival as the first one at the scene of a fire, and his own statements that proved to be false.
It was just too evident that it was Hofaker, said Lungen. He knew way too much before the fire departments did in regards to where the fires burned, how they were started and their locations.
Lungen added he felt that the letter was written by Hofaker himself or at his direction, and an investigation into who typed the letter is currently underway, along with where the letter was mailed from. A Mid-Hudson postmark was stamped on the received letter, with no return address.
Lungen also said that the letter was dated the 27th of January but did not surface until the middle of February.
Hofaker, who is 27, is currently serving 17 years in state prison.
The letter, which is claimed to be written by a local Highland man who recently committed suicide, is in very poor taste, Lungen stated.
Using somebodys name who died so tragically in order to clear someone who is and has been proven guilty by a jury, is a terrible thing to do to a dead persons memory and his family. A man who has died is a convenient scapegoat to use, but the evidence was clear from the start, and I do not see the letter changing anything in regards to Hofakers sentencing.