9 months for burning home, lying to police

A Montesano man convicted of burning his father’s house last fall, then inventing an elaborate kidnapping story to tell police, will spend the next nine months in Grays Harbor County Jail.

Michael S. Scheef, 43, was sentenced Tuesday in Grays Harbor Superior Court for first-degree reckless burning and making false statements to a public servant.

An arson charge was added because Scheef eventually admitted to intentionally burning a motor home on the property. A jury found him not guilty of that charge, but guilty of the other two.

Firefighters initially responded to the motor home fire Sept. 30, then discovered another fire inside the home about 50 feet away, according to court documents.

Police tried to locate Scheef unsuccessfully before he contacted Animal Control Oct. 2, trying to pick up his dogs. Scheef initially told police he had no idea the home and motor home had burned.

Scheef claimed three men had abducted him the morning of Sept. 30 and he had only returned Oct. 2, despite statements from friends that he had been at their home the night of the fire.

Scheef eventually told police the home accidentally caught fire when he spilled gasoline he had been using to heat and light the house. He then lit a fire in the motor home to support his story that he had been kidnapped in an effort to run him out of town.

Deputy Prosecutor Jason Walker said neither Scheef’s father nor the owner of the trailer wanted to pursue charges.

“I was authorized to not file charges on this, but I looked at it and it was reckless and it was dangerous,” Walker said.

“I don’t understand any of this,” Judge Gordon Godfrey said. “I’m going to fill a gas lantern, I’m going to do it when it’s dark, and I’ve got a lantern that doesn’t have the glass, I’ve got an open flame. If that’s not reckless I don’t know what is.”

“Then you turn around and come up with some story to cover your tracks and you throw a can of gas on a trailer. That’s arson. The jury was confused,” Godfrey added.

Scheef asked to be allowed to go to Wyoming, where his father had secured a construction job for him. Godfrey denied his request.

Godfrey sentenced Scheef to a total of nine months; 90 days on the reckless burning charge, and 364 days for the false statements, with all but six months of that suspended. The sentences will be served concurrently.

“I’m going to help out your future employer,” Godfrey said as he sentenced Scheef. “You’re going to shower and clean up and get lots of sleep, and you’ll be ready to work.”


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