Wednesday, March 20, 2002/lk
A confessed arsonist will spend more than two years in prison for torching the car of his ex-girlfriend shortly after midnight on Feb. 11.
Oscar J. Solario, 22, pled guilty in Hood River Circuit Court on Tuesday to first degree arson. He was sentenced both for that crime and for a prior criminal mischief case from November of 2001.
"It strikes me that you and I have gotten to know each other professionally all too well over the past few years," said Judge Paul Crowley to Solario, who has a long criminal history both as an adult and as a juvenile.
"You've now regressed into an extremely dangerous person who has demonstrated the inability to control himself and it is not unreasonable that you could have been looking at manslaughter charges," Crowley said in reference to the fact that Solario lit the car of Columba Jimenez on fire within 13 feet of the residence where his two young children, ages 2 and 3, were sleeping. Earlier that same day, Solario had publicly threatened to kill Jimenez and/or blow up her car because of a disagreement over child visitation.
"I would like to say that I didn't mean to cause this much pain, I was furious at the time and I know I made the wrong decision," said Solario in his March 12 address to the court.
Crowley sentenced Solario to 39 months in prison, although Hood River District Attorney John Sewell said the convicted felon will most likely serve only 31 months because of statutory "good time" reductions. In addition, Solario was ordered to spend three years on post-prison supervision and pay $6,500 in restitution to Jimenez. Payment of the fine would be shared with codefendant Danielle Ford, 18, if she is convicted for her alleged involvement in the incident.
Solario was also directed to pay $400 to replace the rear window of another car that he had broken with a rock after becoming angry with an acquaintance last fall.
Because Solario had placed his children at risk through his actions, Crowley restricted him from any contact during his probation unless it was approved and arranged by his parole officer.
"I understand that while these kids are your natural kids they are also the victims of your crime," said Crowley.
Jimenez protested the shortened sentence given to Solario for the Class A felony which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
"His punishment is not equal to what he's put me and my children through and I don't see the fairness behind it," said Jimenez. "The court system should protect people who live by the law and abide by the rules."
However, Marc Geller, Solario's attorney, reiterated that the guilty plea of his client required a compromise on behalf of all parties since it ensured a conviction.
"I will say this for Mr. Solario, he's never made any excuses, never blamed other people, he's taken it on the chin and admitted he screwed up," said Geller.
Crowley told Solario his imprisonment would serve as a crossroads for the future; a time when he could either chose to take personal responsibility for his own life or continue on a path that would lead to repeated incarceration.
"Candidly, I don't have a lot of faith in you, I don't expect you to turn it around but you could prove me wrong and I sincerely hope you do," said Crowley.
Ford will enter her formal plea on April 1. She has been charged as an accomplice in both arson and criminal mischief since she reportedly drove Solario to and from the house on Davis Drive where Jimenez lived.
Following the fire, witnesses told police they had spotted a vehicle matching the one registered to Ford leaving the scene. They said that car was typically driven by a young woman who shared a residence with Solario's brother.
A few minutes later, Ford's car was stopped while traveling eastbound on Interstate 84 near mile post 67. Ford was behind the wheel of the vehicle when it was pulled over. Solario was found hiding in the trunk and, according to reports, reeked of gasoline and had a lighter in his possession. The suspect gas can was later found in a neighboring yard.
A juvenile passenger in Ford's car also gave a statement to police that implicated both her and Solario in the crime. The 16-year-old teen has not been charged in connection with the case.
However, Solario reportedly told officers that Ford did not take part in "what was done," although he refused at the time to identify what that action entailed.