Spangler gets probation, jail time in arson case
by MAC OVERTON
Dec 23, 2010 | 1308 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Mac Overton<br>
DEFENSE ATTORNEY  Robert Mims of Tyler confers with Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd (with back to camera) prior to the sentencing Monday of Wesley Leon Spangler Jr. for arson. Assistant District Attorney Edward Choy, who prosecuted the case, is seated at right.
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A Big Sandy man who was convicted of arson last week in 115th District Court in Gilmer was sentenced by Judge Lauren Parish Monday.

Wesley Leon Spangler Jr. received the maximum sentence, said Assistant Upshur County District Attorney Edward Choy.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, probated for 10 years, for the crime, which occurred March 19, 2008 at 119 Gilmer St. in Big Sandy, in a more than century-old building which Spangler had converted into an apartment for himself and his family.

He was also fined $10,000 and sentenced to spend six months in the Upshur County Jail. Spangler must also perform 800 hours of community service.

About 50 firefighters from Big Sandy, Gilmer, and many other fire departments battled the blaze, and kept the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings.

The building is at the east end of a strip of old brick buildings in downtown Big Sandy.

It is separated from the town’s police station by a parking lot and is across the street from the Big Sandy Fire Department.

Spangler had been found guilty by a jury last Wednesday, following two days of testimony.

Choy prosecuted the case, and used expert testimony from Larry Smith, an agent in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ National and International Arson Task Force.

Smith, who has investigated more than 1,000 fires in his 35-year career, determined that the fire had originated at the right end of a sofa in the living room. He said that a “light to medium” accelerant, such as lighter fluid or various forms of alcohol, had been used. Neither Spangler nor his wife and children were at home at the time of the fire.

An accelerant-detecting dog had marked two spots, one at the end of the couch and one elsewhere in the room, where accelerant had been used, Smith said.

Defense attorney Robert Mims of Tyler had argued that the fire was accidental. He told reporters Monday that he didn’t know where the fire had started, but during the trial he implied it could started from faulty wiring in the attic.

He said Monday that they are undecided about whether to appeal. Spangler has 30 days to appeal.

Choy said he would confer with Byrd about whether to pursue a charge of insurance fraud against Spangler. He said that, except for a hot check charge several years ago, Spangler had no other criminal history. He has a wife and two children at home.

Judge Parish said that “the reason for the sentence is very simple. You did not receive any gain from this, and no one was injured.”

She said that, because he had endangered firefighters, he should serve some jail time.

His jail term begins Jan. 3.
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