Sentencing in arson trial set for Thursday

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Sept. 18, 2013 at 4:18 a.m.

A judge is expected Thursday to sentence a Bloomington man who admitted to setting an unoccupied house on fire.

Aaron Flores Darnell, 27, pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to arson with intent to damage a habitat or place of worship.

He was accused of starting a fire in the closet and hallway of a wood-framed home in the 500 block of Rio Grande in Bloomington on March 20, 2007.

Darnell told investigators he was in love with the homeowner and felt "jilted" by her after she moved to another state with her husband. Witnesses and sheriff's deputies also saw Darnell riding a bicycle near the scene as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, according to an investigation report.

"She (a witness) stated that the morning of the fire Aaron called her house and was saying things like 'Look outside, isn't the sky beautiful?' (She) saw that there was a large fire at that point," then County Fire Marshal W. Kyle Young wrote in his report.

After Darnell was arrested on public intoxication charges, he told investigators he planned to burn more houses down the following night.

In 2008, Darnell was placed in a facility for the mentally disabled.

A judge ordered him competent to stand trial May 30.

Assistant District Attorney Johna Stallings declined to comment until the case was resolved.

Darnell's attorney Joyce M. Leita could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Arson with intent to damage a habitat or place of worship in this case is a first-degree felony punishable by between five to 99 years in prison. A $10,000 fine could also be assessed.



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