A man who set fire to his girlfriend’s house in a drunken act of revenge has been handed a two-year conditional sentence, including a period of six months of house arrest.
Louie Quinntin Muehlfarth, 31, was given the sentence after pleading guilty to arson of a home on Forbes Avenue in the Squamish Nation’s Eslhá7an community on Aug. 17, 2020.
Judge Joanne Challenger described the events of that day in court Feb. 23, noting Muehlfarth’s girlfriend and his mother were both living in the home at the time. After the couple had an argument, Muehlfarth became angry that the girlfriend wasn’t taking his calls and "acted out in revenge," said Challenger. He took her clothes outside and used an aerosol spray to set them on fire before running inside, said Challenger. Police attended the scene.
Later that day, Muehlfarth was found by his mother throwing his girlfriend’s possessions out of a window and punching walls in an intoxicated state. The mother called police and Muehlfarth was soon seen leaving on his bicycle.
“Shortly after he left, the people in the home smelled smoke, opened the door to his girlfriend's room and found a dresser on fire,” said the judge. “The fire spread quickly. Thankfully, everyone in the home was able to leave safely.”
Firefighters had to chop into the walls and ceiling of the house to ensure the fire was out.
Muehlfarth returned to the scene about 30 minutes later and was placed under arrest.
The fire caused extensive damage as well as upset in the community due to the potential for injury to others and damage to nearby homes, said Challenger.
Crown prosecutor Ariana Ward asked for a jail term of two to five years, or a lengthy period of probation, noting it was a serious offence.
Defence lawyer Herb Chambers asked for a one-year conditional sentence and probation, noting Muehlfarth has expressed remorse and taken steps towards rehabilitation.
In handing Muehlfarth a conditional sentence, Challenger said she had concluded that going to jail would do more harm than good and that the “long-term interests of society” would be better served in helping him become a sober, productive member of the community.
Muehlfarth grew up in a dysfunctional home and has struggled with drinking and drug abuse, Challenger noted, but has taken steps to turn his life around including joining AA and seeking counselling.
During the sentencing hearing, Muehlfarth told the judge the incident was his lowest point. “It was dark,” he said. “Now I’m in a different part of my life.” He added he has not had a drink in more than a year.
Muehlfarth has since also reconciled with his girlfriend and family members.
Muehfarth’s two-year conditional sentence order includes six months of house arrest and 18 months under a curfew. During that time, he can be away from his home for work, attending medical appointments and attending to personal errands with permission. He is also banned from consuming alcohol or drugs, except with a prescription, and from possessing an incendiary devices, including jerry cans, matches, and lighters, except with prior approval.
Muehlfarth must also complete 50 hours of community work service, preferably to benefit the Squamish Nation, said Challenger.