The Utah man who set multiple wildfires south of Bend after stealing a rental car last summer was sentenced Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court to 70 days in jail and three years probation.
Christopher Glen Wilson, 38, of Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of first-degree arson and one count of recklessly endangering another person. He has been in custody since his arrest and is getting credit for time served.
Wilson, wearing thick-rimmed glasses and a goatee, appeared via video link from Deschutes County jail for the hearing. He declined to speak, but he admitted to the crimes in a written plea petition.
“I intentionally damaged protected property in two separate locations by starting two fires,” Wilson wrote. “My actions recklessly created a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.”
Katherine Griffith, Wilson’s defense lawyer, said in court her client suffers from mental health issues and has no memory of setting the small wildfires along U.S. Highway 97.
Griffith recommended a mental health evaluation and treatment as part of Wilson’s sentence, which was granted by Judge Wells Ashby.
Griffith described Wilson as a nature lover and someone who would usually never commit arson. It was difficult for Wilson to review the evidence against him, she said.
“It was a challenge to go through (the evidence) and come to terms with what happened,” Griffith said.
Oregon State Police and U.S. Forest Service personnel started investigating multiple wildfires Aug. 29 along U.S. Highway 97, between Lava River Cave and milepost 180 south of La Pine.
Witnesses reported seeing a blue car in the area of the wildfires, which was later identified as a 2016 Hyundai Sonata that Wilson rented from Enterprise-Rent-a-Car in Midvale, Utah, according to court documents.
The Hyundai was due back Aug. 17, but Wilson never returned it. The rental car agency called Wilson on Aug. 28 saying it would be reported stolen. Wilson did not respond, and the car was reported stolen Aug. 29, the same day he started the small wildfires, according to court documents.
Wilson was arrested Sept. 3, when Oregon State Police troopers spotted him driving the stolen car on Interstate 84 in Ontario.
Wilson was convicted of unauthorized use of a vehicle in Malheur County in December. He was transported to Deschutes County to face the arson and reckless endangering charges.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org