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California teenager gets at least 10 years for attempted murder

A California teenager will spend at least a decade behind bars for his part in a January murder plot that involved dousing the porch of a Medford duplex in gasoline and lighting it on fire to kill a man sleeping inside.

Kyle Irvin Wayne Jones, 16, wept Friday as a jury found him guilty of attempted aggravated murder and arson charges. The aggravated murder charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Jones and three friends set fire to the porch on Cottage Street on Jan. 5. The act was intended to kill Russell Sewell, who was living at the home with a family member.

Jones' friends, Lee Leon Tyrone Ollison, 24, and Bradley Chance Oliver, 17, previously accepted plea deals in the case.

Oliver is serving just more than nine years for two convictions of first-degree arson. Ollison accepted a deal for seven and a half years in prison for first-degree arson.

Jones never attempted a plea deal and decided to take his chances in Jackson County Circuit Court. The result will land him in prison longer than his accomplises.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ray White will sentence Jones on Oct. 5. He will get at least 10 years in prison for the attempted murder and could have the seven-and-a-half year arson sentence tacked on if the judge so chooses. White could also order the sentences to run concurrently.

Medford police Detective Tony Young and Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Pauly said they spent hundreds of hours working the case. They were happy with the guilty verdict.

"We could have easily had eight dead bodies in this case," Young said.

The duplex where Sewell and the family member were sleeping was attached to a unit where six people were sleeping that night.

The investigation determined that Jones poured gasoline on the porch and lead a trail of gas to the sidewalk where the fire was ignited.

Pauly credited a neighbor in the area for quickly reporting the fire, as well as getting the license plate of the getaway car.

"That was so critical," Pauly said. "This type of construction would have gone up in flames quickly."

Young and Pauly discredited the idea that Jones was just a reckless teenager who did not fully understand his actions that night.

The trio were on a mission to kill Sewell after he had previously beat up Ollison. They purchased a two-gallon gas can and drove to his home that night with the intention of burning it down. When they saw lights on inside they stashed the gas can in Sewell's yard and came back hours later to finish the job.

"This was a deliberate act," Young said. "They had time to back out and rethink this decision, but they never did."

All three fled to Sacramento that night for fear that police would track them down. Ollison and Oliver soon returned to Medford, but Jones opted to remain in California with a family member.

In a phone interview that was played in court, Young tried to convince Jones to come clean about his actions the night of the fire. At first, Jones claimed to have no knowledge of the crime, but after a while he admitted to knowing his friends' intentions but he was not involved. Eventually he admitted that he was at the scene but never left the car.

He fell short of admitting that he poured the gas on the porch that night, but his friends described to police his part in the plot.

"It did not need to come to this," Pauly said. "They put people's lives in danger to get back at someone."

Sewell was found guilty of third-degree assault for his part in the fight that sparked the entire incident.

At the very least, Jones will spend the bulk of his 20s in prison before he is released. If he does the minimum 10-year stretch he will get out when he is 26.

"This was an adult crime," Young said. "There's no way around it."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.