17 years for arsons

Published 10:06 pm Monday, December 1, 2014

A Suffolk man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison on charges involving several arsons of his neighbors’ house on Brittany Lane.

Michael Odom Smith, 31, was sentenced Monday in Suffolk Circuit Court by Judge Robert H. Sandwich Jr. The total sentence was 40 years, but 23 were suspended.



He pleaded guilty to one charge each of manufacturing or possessing a fire bomb or explosive, malicious shooting or throwing at a house, and arson of a dwelling.

Email newsletter signup

The incidents happened on Sept. 6, Oct. 9 and Oct. 20, 2013, according to prosecutor Susan Walton. All three incidents targeted a home where a couple lived alone. Three of their four grown children live some distance away, Walton said.

“It was very traumatic for them as a family,” Walton said, adding that the children felt helpless to assist their parents because they live so far away. “They testified they still suffer from the psychological effects of what happened. They (the victims) moved as a result of this.”

In the first incident, Smith pulled a trashcan close to his neighbors’ house, put newspaper in it, poured in gasoline and set it on fire. He then set trees and brush on fire and threw a Mason jar containing gasoline at a window.

The second incident caused the most damage to the home. Smith poured gasoline under a window and set it on fire, Walton said. An air vent caught on fire, and the fire got between the exterior wall and the drywall, traveled to the attic and caused “thousands of dollars’ worth of damage,” Walton said.

By the time of the third incident, the victims had installed surveillance cameras and exterior lights, so Smith couldn’t get very close to the house. He lit a rag, put it in a Mason jar with gasoline and tossed it at his neighbors’ house, catching the grass on fire.

None of the fires caused any injuries.

Walton said there was no apparent motive, other than Smith saying he was intoxicated when he committed the crimes. The incidents caused fear in the neighborhood, she said, because nobody knew whether the victims were being targeted or whether they were random crimes.

When he’s released, Smith will be on indefinite probation and will not be able to have contact with the family, Walton said.