Medford man gets probation for home arson
A 41-year-old man avoided prison time but was ordered Monday to pay nearly $67,000 in restitution for setting a 2012 arson fire that damaged a rural Medford hilltop home he shared at the time with his wife and children.
Paul Lister Newcombe, 41, was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay the restitution for his no-contest plea to a charge of first-degree arson stemming from the November 2012 fire.
The first-degree arson charge could have been handled as a Measure 11 crime in Oregon with a mandatory minimum sentence of 7ï»¿1/2 years in prison. But to qualify, the arson must be proven to cause "a threat of serious physical injury," Oregon law states.
"It takes a lot to get to that threshold for Measure 11," Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said Monday.
Without the Measure 11 application, Newcombe qualified for probation because of his lack of criminal history, Heckert said. Had he had a lengthy criminal history, Newcombe could have qualified for a prison sentence of up to three years, she said.
Under Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia's order, Newcombe could end up serving up to six months in jail if he does not fully comply with his probation requirements, court records state.
But Mejia's order also states that Newcombe may apply for misdemeanor treatment of his conviction upon successful completion of his probation, court documents state.
Newcombe said in court Monday that he intends to seek a hearing on the restitution amount, Heckert said.
The November 2012 fire consumed a 4,000-square-foot house at 5142 W. Griffin Creek Road that Newcombe shared with his wife, Jennifer, and their four children.
A Jackson County grand jury indicted Paul Newcombe on Oct. 23, 2013, following a lengthy investigation by Oregon State Police.
Since the fire, Jennifer Newcombe has filed for divorce and has filed a civil suit seeking damages from the fire. Neither case has settled, court records show.
The sound of a large explosion accompanied reports of fire at the two-story Newcombe residence at about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 21, 2012. A black plume of smoke could be seen in the city of Medford rising above the home's perch on a ridge covered by Applegate Valley Rural Fire Protection District No. 9. Crews from Medford Fire-Rescue also responded, and vehicles hauled thousands of gallons of water up long, steep driveways.
Firefighters corralled the hot, fast-moving blaze to about half of the structure and also moved vintage sports cars in the garage out of harm's way. But insurance adjusters ruled the house a total loss, according to reports.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at email@example.com.