Northwest NEWS

April 26, 1999

Valley Special

Guilty plea in string of arson fires

by Valley View staff

   A Duvall man charged with a string of arson fires, burglaries, and car thefts last October pleaded guilty to the crimes last week in King County Superior Court. Jason Lee Johnson, 26, was charged with one count of arson in the first degree, two counts of arson in the second degree, two counts of taking a motor vehicle without permission, and three counts of residential burglary.

   Since he was arrested, Johnson has been kept in King County Jail on $350,000 bail. King County Prosecutor spokesman Dan Donohoe said Johnson faces nine to 12 years in prison, but that the recommendation will be for the 12-year period. Johnson is scheduled for sentencing on May 21.

   Prosecutors said the crime spree began the morning of Oct. 22 when Johnson set fire to a truck he had stolen, then to a shed and a house that was occupied by a family of four on Fish Hatchery Road. All the occupants of the house escaped unharmed.

   Johnson then stole a Mercedes Benz and left it in Preston. Inside the car were a leaf blower and pressure washer that had been stolen from the shed.

   Two other burglaries followed and another car was stolen. That car was recognized in Issaquah and chased by police until it crashed into a house on Newport Way. The driver avoided capture by fleeing on foot. Johnson then stole another car, setting it on fire as well.

   Two weeks later police were called to Seafirst Bank in Duvall where Johnson was attempting to cash a forged check. Duvall police officer Mark Leitl was first at the bank, recognizing Johnson as a known felon. Johnson attempted to flee, but Leitl was able to catch and subdue him after a short struggle.

   According to police, Johnson admitted to the crimes, saying he burned the vehicles to destroy fingerprints.