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 more than four years and four months in federal prison, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Bryan Lee Kitchen, 33, was arrested by Pullman police about a week after the blaze burned 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 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 ignite the flames.
Kitchen worked as a subcontractor on the projectThe flames destroyed 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 to pay, most will go to Campus Crest Communities, the North Carolina-based company that built the complex. WSU also will receive compensation, though federal prosecutor Aine Ahmed said it was unlikely Kitchen would be able to pay the full amount “short of Mr. Kitchen winning the lottery.”
Before the sentence was announced, Kitchen’s wife asked Judge Suko to impose the recommended sentence of between five and 20 years 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.”
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 “eight to 10” arson cold cases based on information he provided.
Kitchen will 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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