PAW PAW — A Hartford man who confessed to lighting seven structure fires will spend at least six years in prison.
Kyle David Norden, 40, appeared in Van Buren County Circuit Court on Monday, where he was sentenced to 6-20 years in prison on one count of second-degree arson and a concurrent term of 1-10 years in prison on one count of third-degree arson. The maximum sentence for each count was 20 years and 10 years, respectively.
Sentencing guidelines called for 51-85 months in prison.
Judge Kathleen Brickley said when she is determining whether to place someone in jail, in prison or on probation, she tries to differentiate between the people she feels anger toward and the people that she is afraid of being out in the community.
“I’m not mad at you. You clearly suffer from a very significant mental health issue that you have not addressed appropriately and for that I’m sorry,” she said. “But I am very afraid of you out in the community and the damage you could cause and injuries you could cause. You, as a former firefighter, should know more than anybody the consequences of fire.”
She said that because this wasn’t a single incident, she has grave concerns about it continuing, if Norden is not properly treated.
Norden was charged in October with six counts of arson – three second-degree charges and three third-degree charges. The other four counts were dismissed as part of a plea he entered in January.
Norden, at one time a firefighter with the Hartford department, was identified Oct. 20 as a suspect for the fires, and after being brought in to the sheriff’s office and interviewed by deputies, he confessed to lighting five fires in Van Buren County and two in Berrien County.
Two fires were set in Hartford Township, two were set in Keeler Township, one was set in Bangor Township, one was set in Watervliet Township, with another fire also set in Berrien County, according to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department. The fires were set between Sept. 29 and Oct. 20.
Norden pleaded guilty to the fire in Bangor Township of a house along 66th Street, and the fire in Watervliet Township of a barn along Hagar Shore Road.
The owners of the barn destroyed by fire spoke at the sentencing. They talked about family events at the barn and how they had plans to turn it into an event venue.
“This barn has a history that dates back more than 150 years. It stood as a landmark for generations,” Kelly Tucker said. “The night of Oct. 1 was a nightmare for us. I don’t think I will ever shake the sick feeling of seeing the barn on fire. And we have to look at that every day when we pull into our driveway and it’s not there.”
She said they would have lost everything that night if the firefighters hadn’t kept the fire from spreading to their house.
Norden apologized at his sentencing. He said he needs help because he’s been depressed for 10 years.
“I am sorry for what I did and I will never do it again,” he said.
In addition to the prison sentence, Brickley ordered Norden to pay $511,463 in court costs and restitution, with more restitution possible. He was given credit for 129 days served in jail.
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