An Ada man who set his mother’s house on fire when he was 17 was recently sentenced to serve time in the county jail, followed by probation.
Pedro Muniz, 18, of Ada, pleaded no contest Feb. 20 to first-degree arson and endangering human life during arson.
He was sentenced to 10 years incarceration, with all but six months suspended. Muniz will serve his time in the Pontotoc County Justice Center, then he will be on three years of supervised probation under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Though he was 17 when the crime occurred, Muniz was charged as a youthful offender (adult), “due to the severity of the offenses and the age of the defendant,” Assistant District Attorney Sonya Chronister said.
Chronister said the victim in the case, Muniz’s mother, never cooperated with the prosecution.
The fire occurred Oct. 29, 2017 at about 9:40 a.m. at a residence in the 600 block of West Eighth Street.
Ada Police officers Chad Reid and Taylor Lowe arrived at the fire, and, after learning that Muniz might be inside, went into the burning house to search.
Officer Michael Meeks arrived shortly after.
“As I arrived, I noticed officers Reid and Lowe coughing and choking,” Meeks said in a report. “Officer Reid stated he entered the house from the front, but could not get to the back of the house. There was thick, black smoke coming from the back three-fourths of the house with the siding melting and running to the ground.”
Meeks said the intense heat and thick smoke made any further entry impossible.
“I then located one of the occupants of the residence, Clarice Culberson, who stated her 17-year-old son was still in the house,” Meeks said. “As Ada (firefighters) arrived, I let them know that there was still a child in the house.”
Ada firefighters quickly knocked down the fire and entered the house to search. No one was located.
Lowe was treated by Mercy EMS at the scene. Reid was taken by Mercy EMS to Mercy Hospital Ada, where he was treated and released.
Culberson reportedly told police that she was alerted to the fire when she heard a neighbor screaming and banging on a door in the residence.
She told Meeks that, before the fire, her son was angry at her and the two had been arguing. She said after the argument, she went into her bedroom, put on headphones and began sewing. She did not know about the fire until the neighbor alerted her, Meeks said.
The neighbor, identified as David Mackey, said he smelled smoke and, when he looked outside, saw thick black smoke coming from the house.
“He said he beat on the front door, but no one answered,” Meeks said. “He then shoved the door open, yelled for people, got below the smoke on his hands and knees and found a room to the left of the living room. He said as he beat on the door and yelled, a lady opened it and he was able to get her out the front door.”
The state fire marshal was called in to investigate.
Meeks was later called back to the residence at 1:41 p.m. to help identify a person who had walked up to the house. It was Muniz, Meeks said.
Muniz was detained and taken to the Ada Police Department, where he was questioned by detectives. Police officials said Muniz admitted to setting the fire.
Muniz appeared in court for a preliminary hearing in January. He was set to appear in court again Feb. 20 for further preliminary hearing and a hearing on the state’s motion to impose an adult sentence and the defense attorney’s motion to certify Muniz as a delinquent child.
A required youthful offender study indicated that Muniz could benefit from treatment and services that are not available in the Department of Corrections.
“The study concluded that there is a reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation through the use of treatment in the community,” Chronister said. “Based on all these factors, … it was determined that the best outcome was to place the defendant in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a period of 10 years, with all that time suspended after serving six months in the Pontotoc County Justice Center. He will remain on DOC supervision for a period of three years, during which time he must complete mental health assessments and successfully complete all recommendations of those assessments before he will be released from DOC supervision.”
Chronister also said Muniz received a conviction for his actions in the matter and must comply with the rules and condition of probation for the next 10 years.