A Vernon man who had the city on edge over a string of arson fires in 2014 is going to jail for nearly three years.
William Munton, 57, was sentenced by Justice George Macintosh in Supreme Court in Vernon Friday to a 36-month sentence, minus time already served, after Munton pleaded guilty to seven counts of arson. Macintosh agreed to a joint sentencing submission from Munton’s lawyer, Julian van der Walle, and Crown lawyer Juan O’Quinn.
“He’s almost 60, has no prior criminal record and his pleas helped avoid a lengthy trial,” said van der Walle.
Court heard how Munton and a 17-year-old male accomplice started fires over a six-week period in June and July 2014, then set another in October 2014.
The 17-year-old was never charged for his roles in the fires.
In each case, the pair used the same homemade incendiary device – a plastic mixer bottle, fire starter cubes, gasoline and a flame to ignite the device, which was placed in select spots at their chosen targets. At one fire, the device didn’t work as planned and police found Munton’s fingerprint on the bottle at the scene. That, and help from the 17-year-old gave police significant help in solving the case.
Munton and the minor were responsible for fires that destroyed the Kin Race Track grandstand – the most serious of the seven fires as deemed by O’Quinn – as well a blaze at B.C. Tree Fruits that burned up 2,000 bins and apple crates. Munton started a fire at a boat in a storage facility that belonged to a close friend of his. The friend was one of 10 people that wrote character letters in support of Munton.
Other fires were in a parked van on 43rd Street (the one where Munton’s fingerprint was discovered), a house under construction in Coldstream and a motorhome in Okanagan Landing. The fire in October 2014 was at a duplex under construction near Seaton Secondary School, in which the pair went in, scoped out the location, and left the device behind to burn in the condo.
What Munton and the boy didn’t know was that there was a pair of teenagers on top of the condo smoking cigarettes. The boys’ screams for help led neighbours to discover the fire and help rescue the teens.
“The fires impacted the entire community,” said O’Quinn. “The community was on edge because of the fires. People didn’t know what would happen next.”
Munton was originally charged with 19 counts of arson. A stay of proceedings was entered by Crown on the other 12 charges at the end of Friday’s court proceedings.
Dressed in an open long sleeve shirt and grey T-shirt with grey pants and running shoes, Munton was not afforded an opportunity to address the court by Macintosh.
His lawyer pointed out Munton, a former teacher in Victoria, Port Hardy and Salmon Arm, spent 30 days in remand custody upon his arrest and both lawyers agreed that time served for that (which amounts to 45 days) should be taken off his sentence. Munton has been steadily employed in construction in Vernon after his release and up until his sentencing Friday.
Macintosh sentenced Munton to three years for the Kin Race Track fire, three years concurrent for the B.C. Tree Fruits blaze, 12 months concurrent for the boat and motorhome fires, and six months concurrent for the other three fires. In each count, Munton was ordered to provide a DNA sample and given a 10-year weapons prohibition.
Minus the time served, Munton was sentenced to two years, 10 months and 15 days in a federal penitentiary.
Original story 4:20 p.m.
Vernon arsonist William Munton was sentenced today at Supreme Court in Vernon for nearly three years in custody.
Munton was found guilty of starting seven fires in the city between June and Oct. 2014. He formerly worked as a teacher in Salmon Arm.
Munton pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2018, to seven of 19 charges in relation to a string of fires in 2014. One of these fires burned down the historic grandstand at Kin Race Track.
Other properties damaged by fired during that time frame include a pair of boats, two motorhomes, two vehicles, a duplex under construction, a recycling bin, wooden pallets and fruit boxes.