A 28-year-old man suspected in a series of arson fires in a neighborhood near Langley pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Monday as a part of a plea bargain.
Ryan T. Parish was originally charged with two counts of second-degree arson. He pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court to reckless burning in the second degree.
The judge agreed with the recommended sentence from the prosecution and defense and sent him to jail for 90 days.
Eric Ohme, the senior deputy prosecutor, said in court Monday that the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to pursue the arson charges against Parish. A deputy with night-vision goggles caught him burning leaves and garbage, but there was little to tie him directly to a series of five arson fires in the Whitehorse Lane neighborhood last fall.
In addition, Parish’s attorney, Peter Simpson of Coupeville, said his client will receive mental health counseling under the terms of plea bargain. Parish’s mother spoke at the hearing, promising that she will keep a close eye on her son.
The fires in the small neighborhood occurred last September and October. The arsonist targeted fences, a portable toilet, a brush pile and a car port, which sustained significant damage.
Deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office suspected Parish because he had reported one of the fires and has a juvenile history of arson, according to court documents. A deputy conducted a late-night stakeout in the woods near Parish’s home Oct. 19 and caught him setting fire to a large pile of trash bags.
Joel Connelly, a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has a cabin on South Whidbey and was one of the victims. He wrote a victim impact statement detailing the good work that Parish did gardening and caretaking for him.
He describes him as a shy young man who came from a very challenged background and has “an almost puppy-like need for praise.”
“Ryan Parish needs a break, even if he is convicted and punished,” Connelly wrote, adding that he hopes Parish receives counseling and skills training.