KEY LARGO -- A 48-year-old man who tried to kill himself now faces criminal charges after deputies say he threatened his neighbors' lives by setting his apartment on fire.

John Merendino lit his apartment on fire shortly after midnight July 16 with the intention of killing himself, sheriff's office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.

But the fire engulfed the apartment building, forcing people in two adjacent homes to flee. Merendino's two cats died in the fire.

Firefighters arrived to find Merendino in a bathtub filled with water. He told paramedics he purposely started the blaze as a suicide attempt, Herrin said.

Merendino, an unemployed waiter, was arrested July 22 on suspicion of two counts of felony attempted murder, two counts of animal cruelty and one count of arson. He remains in the Key West jail in lieu of a $245,000 bond.

Democratic forum

KEY LARGO -- The Upper Keys Democratic Committee will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Cedar Towers building, suite 12, mile marker 99.3 oceanside.

Democratic candidates for office will attend. Call (305) 394-0585.