Man found guilty of arson

A Medford man who set his estranged wife's apartment on fire in May was found guilty Friday of arson.

A Jackson County Circuit Court jury unanimously found Darnell Louis Walls, 47, of the 400 block of North Phoenix Road, guilty of first-degree arson. The Measure 11 crime carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven and a half years.

Prosecutor Nicholas Geil was pleased with the verdict, saying that Walls was a danger to the community and deserved the stiff prison sentence.

"The jury saw the threat Mr. Walls' actions posed to our community," Geil said.

The two-day trial included testimony from local fire investigators and audio recordings of Walls' statements to Medford police detectives, in which he acknowledged setting a fire that morning.

The jury deliberated for just over 20 minutes.

Geil argued that Walls was enraged over financial issues with this wife and the fact that she was cheating on him. Anger led Walls to set a fire outside his wife's apartment complex in the 2300 block of East Barnett Road.

"He was trying to scare her," Geil said.

Walls lit some pizza boxes on fire at a corner of the apartment. The flames charred a small area but did not spread beyond the facade.

Geil noted that the fire could easily have entered the complex through windows or the attic and killed people.

"This is the time of day when people are asleep," Geil said. "This could have been worse than an arson. It could have been an assault or a homicide."

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