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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pullman arsonist sentenced to four years, ordered to pay $4 million

Firefighters work to contain a fire at the unoccupied Grove apartments complex in Pullman on July 14. Firefighters responded to the blaze that took almost two hours to contain. The apartment complex was about two weeks from completion. Bryan Kitchen, 31, is suspected of starting the fire. (Associated Press)
Firefighters work to contain a fire at the unoccupied Grove apartments complex in Pullman on July 14. Firefighters responded to the blaze that took almost two hours to contain. The apartment complex was about two weeks from completion. Bryan Kitchen, 31, is suspected of starting the fire. (Associated Press)
The plumber’s apprentice who admitted to setting a fire that razed portions of a massive student apartment complex at Washington State University in Pullman will spend a little more than four years in federal prison, a judge ruled Tuesday. Bryan Lee Kitchen, 33, was arrested by Pullman police about a week after the blaze scorched 88 units at The Grove apartment complex on July 14, 2013, causing more than $4 million in damage. An officer ran the plates of Kitchen’s 2003 Saturn sedan as it sat unattended near the construction site around 2:15 a.m. The fire was reported a little more than an hour later. Kitchen appeared in a suit jacket and slacks in a Spokane federal courtroom Tuesday. He apologized for setting the fire, and thanked emergency personnel who kept the flames from spreading. “I regret all those things I did when I was drunk,” Kitchen said. A psychiatrist diagnosed the 33-year-old with pyromania, bipolar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, said Kitchen’s attorney, Jay McEntire. Kitchen pleaded guilty in January to a single criminal count of maliciously using fire to damage a building used in interstate commerce. According to court documents, Kitchen said he was drunk at the time of the fire and heard voices in his head. Arson investigators later determined Kitchen used a Bic lighter and materials on the job site to accelerate the flames, which shot into the sky and melted siding on nearby buildings before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze, according to court documents. Kitchen was employed as a subcontractor on the project. According to state records, he’d obtained a plumber’s license just days before the fire was set. The flames swallowed four buildings in the eight-building complex, which opened on a limited basis that October, according to news reports. Of the $4.7 million in restitution Judge Lonny R. Suko ordered Kitchen pay, a vast majority will go to Campus Crest Communities, the North Carolina-based company that built the complex. WSU will also receive compensation, though U.S. Assistant Attorney Aine Ahmed, who handled the case, said it was unlikely Kitchen would be able to pay the full amount “short of Mr. Kitchen winning the lottery.” Kitchen’s wife addressed the court briefly, asking Suko to impose the recommended sentence so that Kitchen could return home to his two children. “I’ve known Brian since he was 16,” his wife said. “I have never felt threatened by him.” The recommended sentence on the charge is between five and 20 years in prison. imprisonment. Prosecutors agreed to seek a more lenient sentence because Kitchen was cooperating in other arson investigations in which he was involved, according to court documents. Ahmed said Kitchen met with Pullman fire investigators, who were able to close “8 to 10” arson cold cases based on the information he provided. Kitchen will be on supervised release for three years after his release from federal prison, Suko ordered. He will pay $25 every three months while incarcerated, and at least 10 percent of his household income every month after that.
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