May 27th, 2024

Convicted arsonist in court for ongoing charges

By Medicine Hat News on April 17, 2024.

@MedicineHatNews

A Medicine Hat man has pleaded guilty to one count of arson while his lawyer seeks more information about a second set of charges laid last fall.

Joseph Russell Haynes, 52, was sentenced to 18 months in custody for lighting a neighbour’s garden shed on fire last July.

He will also pay a total of $6,300 in restitution for damages as part of an agreement with Crown prosecutors, who told Court of Justice proceedings that a prison term was needed in the case.

“There is a concern that we’re dealing with middle-of-the-night structure fires that could put lives in danger,” said Crown prosecutor Jase Cowan, citing a previous arson conviction in 2012.

Since Haynes has spent 200 days in prison already, he will serve about seven more months.

A second ongoing charge of arson dating from a month after the shed fire was adjourned to early next month, as defence attorney Vince Guinan is seeking to obtain video evidence in the specific case.

“He’s sorry about this and is happy to resolve it,” said Guinan on behalf of Haynes, who remained silent throughout proceedings.

Court heard that in July 2023 police were called to a residence in Crescent Heights by the Medicine Hat Fire Department which had extinguished a backyard fire.

The homeowner told police it was the second time the shed was burned.

Watching a neighbour’s video security system, which showed the alley and portions of the backyard, police observed a man walking a collie dog with distinctive patches. The figure walked up to the shed at which video shows a bright flash which police surmised was a spark before the man leaves and the shed proceeds to burn.

Within an hour, police considered Haynes a “person of concern” since he lived nearby and had a criminal arson conviction on his record dating to a string of similar fires in 2012.

Interviewing Haynes that night in his nearby residence, they observed a dog with the same markings. He was arrested and taken in for further questioning.

One month later, police also laid arson charges after a travel trailer and portions of a garage were badly damaged by a fire investigators say was started in pre-dawn hours and caused $40,000 in damage.

Haynes was placed under 24-hour house arrest as a condition of release, but was arrested breaking that condition and taking a relative’s car without permission. He pled guilty to that allegation in February.

On the charge dealt with Tuesday, the fact the fire damaged two properties led to the laying of two arson charges, the second of which was withdrawn, said attorneys.

The shed owner was awarded $4,500 – the replacement cost of the shed – and a neighbour $1,800 for damage to a fence and property.

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