BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - When Krystal Gonzalez walked into the Biloxi courtroom on Thursday, she was surrounded by family.
However, she didn't walk out with them. Gonzalez was sentenced to seven years in prison, followed by five years of probation.
The previous week, Gonzalez admitted in court that she ignited her boyfriend's shirt, causing the fire that destroyed 20 units at Arbor View Apartments in D'Iberville. Prosecutors had evidence that Gonzalez used FaceTime to show her boyfriend the burning shirt.
Led through the process by defense attorney Michael Crosby, the sentencing hearing included testimony from family members.
Phil Harding, one of the fire victims, also testified.
"I just want to thank, particularly the investigators and the court, for ensuring justice has prevailed this case," Harding said. "I harbor no ill will toward the defendant, but I think she needs to be held accountable for her actions. I don't want to ruin the rest of her life, but I think some time needs to be served here."
D'Iberville Police Chief Wayne Payne agreed.
"It was a good verdict," Payne said. "A lot of people were displaced over this. The young lady has taken responsibility for her actions and the judge has sentenced her to an appropriate sentence."
Through tears, Gonzalez explained why she changed her mind during the trial.
"I was sitting in the trial for two days, and I had seen the residents and the pain that I caused," said Gonzalez. "And I just wanted to run up and hug them and tell them I'm sorry."
Gonzalez was escorted out following the sentencing, where she appeared to mouth "I love you" to family members.
Harding says the fire changed his life.
"I'd recently retired from the military looking for the next phase of life and, unfortunately, took a different turn than we expected," Harding added.
Gonzalez was also ordered to pay restitution for the remaining losses and out of pocket expenses of the victims. The prosecution valued the losses at $1.2 million.
No one was hurt the blaze, although more than 40 residents were displaced, and several pets were killed.