A man who admitted to lighting the fire that burned down a 102-year-old schoolhouse north of Virden has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.
Jack Noel Sandy, 19, pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Virden Provincial Court, including break and enter to commit arson, possession of a firearm obtained by crime and carrying a concealed weapon.
Along with a co-accused, Sandy broke into the two-storey Ross Consolidated School – commonly knowns as Two Creeks School – on Sept. 24 and lit it on fire, said Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup.
The building was in the process of being converted into a home, he added, and was furnished with beds, furniture, appliances and electronics.
“Arson was committed that completely destroyed the property, it was all-consuming,” Lonstrup said.
“No one can agree on whose idea it was to light the building on fire… but once (his co-accused) spilled the fluid, it was Jack Sandy that set it on fire.”
Gun at Goulter
While inside, one of the men stole an antique revolver pistol, Lonstrup said. Which one of the two men decided to pocket it was under debate, but the gun ended up in Sandy’s possession a few days later.
After receiving a tip from a third-party witness, police found Sandy standing outside Goulter School in Virden while children were outside playing, Lonstrup said.
“I have a weapon”
As officers placed him under arrest he told them, “I have to admit guys, I have a weapon,” and a search revealed the antique pistol tucked in the front waistband of his pants.
Sandy told police he was going to Victoria Park in Virden to dispose of the pistol, Lonstrup said, despite there being several kids in the park as school had just let out for lunch.
Sandy’s co-accused had come to his house with the gun and told him to stash it, Sandy told police, but he didn’t want it and decided to throw it away.
The co-accused has since had his charges diverted or stayed by the court.
Lonstrup said, “The community was plagued by this and another major arson [the downtown Virden fire Sept. 23] which I certainly don’t want to hold Mr. Sandy accountable for, but it was a tragic loss in buildings whether it’s a business or a heritage school a century old.”
“It upset the community and put people ill at ease. There was no motive here it seems (other) than pure foolishness.”
Defence lawyer Norm Sims said that while Sandy maintained it was his co-accused who came up with the idea to start the fire, Sandy was taking responsibility for being the one to light it.
“He realizes he’s going to be in custody for some time longer, but this will give Mr. Sandy an opportunity to think about what’s happened and take steps to change his life,” Sims said. “This is a really young man with a very limited record and given the chance to be rehabilitated, he will take those steps.”
When given an opportunity to address the court, Sandy said he wanted to apologize to the community for his actions that day.
Judge Donovan Dvorak said, “The loss of a heritage building, you can’t replace it. It’s a significant loss to the community and, in this case, a significant loss to the homeowner as well. It’s very unfortunate that you and your co-accused decided to get involved in this.”
Sandy was given a sentence of 34 months minus a credit of 12 months for time already served, leaving him with just under two years left in custody.
Courtesy Brandon Sun