ST. LOUIS – A man appeared in federal court on Wednesday and admitted setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s home in St. Louis County while she and members of her family were asleep.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Christopher Willis, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of maliciously damaging or destroying by means of fire.

Willis told the court he entered his ex’s home on Nero Drive on the morning of April 29, nearly six days after they broke up, went into the basement, and set fire to her clothes.

The ex-girlfriend said the fire alarm woke her up and that she was able to safely evacuate the residence with her daughter and aunt.

As part of a plea agreement, both prosecutors and Willis’ lawyer agreed to recommend a five-year sentence to the judge. Willis will be sentenced on Jan. 30, 2024. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.