PARIS — A woman who admitted to burning down several buildings belonging to a former friend will serve no jail time for her role in the arson.
Joann Farris, 64, received three years, all suspended, and will be on probation for four years. She was ordered to pay restitution to the landowner, George Sprague, for up to $70,000, which she had already been ordered to pay in a civil case.
On Aug. 21, 2010, Farris drove her daughter, Lisa Thurston, to buy kerosene, then dropped her off on Sprague's property in Albany Township. Police say Thurston set a fire with the kerosene and Farris came back to pick her up.
Two log cabins, a maintenance building and two storage buildings were destroyed. The property wasn't insured.
Thurston has maintained a not guilty plea.
Farris apologized for the arson. “I am very truly sorry for what I have done,” she said. She said she lived with Sprague for months and helped him with his insulin. She said Sprague needled her until she kicked him out of her home. After Sprague was injured in an accident, she said she invited him back, but he refused.
Sprague, as well as Farris' children, came to the sentencing to testify. Sprague said he was angry but did not seek jail time. “It wouldn't help anything to send her to jail,” he said. Sprague said he wanted an apology.
Farris' children described her as a good mother who lost two husbands and worked hard to raise her children. “She never did anything wrong in her entire life,” her son Leslie Lee Thurston said. He said it was hard for him to understand what she had done.
Thurston said his mother had health problems with her knees and her stomach. Jail time would be hard for her, he said. He and his brother, Howard Thurston, said Sprague had been mean to their mother when he lived with her. “I've heard him sitting there, picking on my mother,” Howard Thurston said.
Farris' attorney, Ron Hoffman, described her her as “a woman who's never had a speeding ticket in her life.”
“She made a poor choice,” Hoffman said.
The state had no recommended sentence. Assistant District Attorney Joseph O'Connor called Farris “very elderly and infirm” but said there needed to be a penalty.
Justice Robert Clifford said the sentencing was difficult. Clifford said he took into account Farris' age, the fact that she got her daughter involved in the crime, and that she had no criminal record and has taken responsibility.
Part of Farris' probation states that she must pay restitution on a monthly basis. Maine Probation and Parole will determine the amount she must pay per month.