June 20, 2007 ST. CLAIR COUNTY — A 31 year-old Capac man was found guilty for setting fire to his Lester St. home in November.
Jurors sat through two weeks of testimony, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Smith Deegan said, before finding Franklin Mardlin guilty on one count each of arson of a dwelling and arson of insured property.
Smith Deegan called 26 witnesses to the stand including six Mussey Twp. firefighters who testified to what they saw at the scene and how they approached fire suppression.
"It was financial, defrauding the insurance company," Smith Deegan said of Mardlin's motives and the prosecution's argument.
Mardlin apparently had numerous fires at some of the other residences he had lived in over the past five years, Smith Deegan said, pointing to a pattern of suspicion.
Two arson investigators, Sgt. Mike Waite of the Michigan State Police and David Stayer of State Farm Insurance, were also called to testify, in addition to electrical engineer Michael McGuire, also contracted by State Farm.
Mardlin's bond was revoked and he has returned to jail to await sentencing on July 16 before Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly. He could face up to 20 years for the arson of a dwelling charge and up to ten years for arson of insured property.
Mussey Twp., Imlay City and Emmett fire departments all responded to the scene of the Nov. 13, 2006 fire. It was not occupied at the time but it appeared the blaze began in the living room. The fire was contained but caused significant damage and the home was considered a total loss.
The village council was ready to declare the home at 406 N. Lester a dangerous building and hazard, but attorney Scott Moeller said the insurance company wants to make a final inventory of the home. It's also possible that insurance funds would be available for clean up, he added.