Northwest NEWS

May 31, 1999

Valley Special

Arsonist sentenced to 12 years

by Valley View staff

   A Duvall man who admitted to a string of arsons and burglaries near Fall City last October has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

   Jason Lee Johnson, 26, pleaded guilty last month to 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. Johnson has been in the King County Jail on $350,000 bail since his arrest in Duvall about two weeks after the crimes occurred.

   Prosecutors said Johnson began the morning of Oct. 22 by torching a truck he had stolen. He then set fire to a house on Fish Hatchery Road that was occupied by Michael Stevens, his wife, and two young daughters. Stevens and his family barely escaped as fire raced from the garage to the house.

   Then Johnson stole another car, abandoning it in Preston. Two more burglaries and another car theft followed. That car was recognized and police chased it until it crashed into a house on Newport Way. Johnson successfully fled on foot, stealing yet another car and setting it on fire. He was captured by Duvall police Officer Mark Leitl at the Seafirst Bank in Duvall about two weeks later while attempting to cash a forged check.

   Johnson told police he burned the vehicles to destroy fingerprints. His previous criminal record included convictions for burglary, theft, forgery, and possession of stolen property, as well as sex offenses.

   During the May 21 sentencing, King County Superior Court Judge Janice Niemi indicated that is important to keep Johnson out of the community for a long time.