PARIS — A Gilead woman will serve three months and work 400 hours of public service for helping her mother burn down several buildings in Albany Township in 2010.
Lisa Thurston, 38, pleaded guilty to arson in January in Oxford County Superior Court. On Friday, her attorney, Kelly McMorran, argued that Thurston was her mother's sole caregiver and was extremely loyal and took that loyalty to an extreme.
According to police, Thurston's 64-year-old mother, Joann Farris, had a falling out with her former friend George Sprague. In August 2010, Farris drove her daughter first to buy kerosene and then to land owned by Sprague with two log cabins, a maintenance building and two storage buildings.
Because Farris was unable to get out and set the fire herself, Thurston soaked the buildings with kerosene and lit the fire.
Farris, pleaded no contest in December and was sentenced to three years, all suspended, and will be on probation for four years. She was ordered to pay up to $70,000 in restitution to Sprague.
McMorran said Thurston “believed she was the only one who could right the perceived wrong done to her mother by Mr. Sprague.” She pointed out that Thurston called in the fire, because she was afraid it would spread to the woods. That call eventually led to her arrest, when State Fire Marshal's Office investigator Daniel Young found inconsistencies in her story about where she was when she noticed the fire. When questioned, Thurston confessed to starting the fire.
In court Friday, Thurston said Sprague spread “vicious rumors” about her mother, and that she had them repeated to her every time she went out shopping. Thurston said she had to change her phone number several times to avoid rude callers.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph O'Connor said Sprague had built most of the buildings himself and had a generator and gas-powered appliances there. He had owned the land for 25 years, but didn't live there full time.
“It was a humble residence, but it was his residence,” O'Connor told the court Friday.
Justice Robert W. Clifford said there were several mitigating factors to the crime, including her calling in the fire, a low risk of Thurston offending again and her quick confession.
Clifford sentenced Thurston to three years with all but six months suspended. She must work 400 hours of public service, help pay $70,000 in restitution and undergo psychiatric counseling. Her sentence starts May 25.