LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County judge sentenced the man found guilty of three arson charges in connection to a series of fires that occurred in North Lufkin in November 2012 to 20 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison.
Stanford Jones, 34, appeared in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court for a sentencing hearing Thursday morning, following a court-ordered pre-sentencing hearing. A jury found Jones guilty of three counts of felony arson back in March.
During the sentencing hearing, prosecutor John Peralta declined to call any witnesses to the stand. He said that the pre-sentencing investigation was enough.
Defense attorney John Tunnell sent Inselmann letters from Jones' family members, friends, and fellow church members to vouch for his client's character.
Tunnell called Brenda Jones Runnels, Jones' mother, to the stand. She said that she helped gather the letters from friends, neighbors, pastors, and church members that described what a good person Jones is.
Runnels said that she has seen a significant change in her son since he has been incarcerated.
Peralta asked Runnels if the letters had come from people in the north Lufkin area, and she responded that they had come from people all over the Lufkin area.
When Tunnell called Jones probation officer to the stand, he asked her how willingly Jones admitted to her that he had sold drugs as a way to show that Jones had changed and was becoming a better person.
During his final remarks, Peralta said he hasn't seen or heard any remorse from Jones. He added that Jones willingly risked people's lives risked making people homeless. Peralta also said that Jones put firefighters and their resources at risk.
Tunnell said he believed his client was a changed man since the arson, and that the letters from neighbors/community members showed that.
Inselmann said he had read and reflected on the letters.
"You're a lucky man,” Inselmann told Jones. “You could've caused the death of several people. Thank God you didn't."
The judge said the jury did an excellent job in recognizing that Jones was an arsonist.
Jones was originally accused of setting six fires in the North Lufkin area in November 2012. Jones was indicted in Dec. 2013. However, one of the six charges was thrown out before the jury read the verdict on the charges.
During the jury trial, City Fire Marshall Steve McCool testified that it is not an accident when six fires occur within the span of 48 hours. McCool also testified that when Jones was arrested, the fires stopped.
“It was months before we had another fire in the neighborhood,” McCool said.
McCool testified that during the investigation of the fires, they contacted the Internet provider and linked Jones' e-mail to a Facebook page where he posted a picture, and then commented, “No tell your brother I'm ready to put a match to Lufkin tx and watch this [expletive] burn down su wuu biz.”
Another post from Jones stated, “Enjoy a peaceful night get plenty of sleep because after tonight some of you will see heaven the rest of you go burn ya go burn slow.”
During his closing arguments at the jury trial, Peralta reminded the juror about the Facebook threats from Jones and that DNA evidence linked Jones to some of the fires.
Tunnel argued that there wasn't enough physical evidence to convict Jones during the jury trial.