Sometimes the wheels of justice may turn slowly, but they finally caught up with Steven J. Beseau.
Beseau, now 26, was convicted last month for a 2007 arson case that occurred in Spokane Valley, said Deputy Fire Marshal Clifton Mehaffey said. Beseau was convicted by Spokane County Superior Judge Gregory Sypolt for first-degree arson, residential burglary, harassment/threat to kill, felony violation of a no-contact order and misdemeanor violation of a no-contact order.
Mehaffey said the saga involved several years, a trip to Oregon and many hours in court.
“I think this is the longest time it’s taken us on an arson case,”
Mehaffey told Spokane Valley fire commissioners on Monday.
Spokane Valley Fire responded on July 1, 2007, to a kitchen fire in a split-level home in the 11900 block of East 13th Avenue. The suspect had traveled from Oregon with his mother in an attempt to contact his estranged wife and two children that were living in the house with her parents.
Two weeks earlier, Beseau is alleged to have assaulted his wife in front of his children, hence the “estrangement,” Mehaffey said.
The fire itself started in the area of a toaster on the countertop. It was determined the toaster had been rigged as an incendiary device, but that engineering work took several months before an arrest warrant could be drafted. That’s when Mehaffey took the trip with a sheriff’s detective to arrest and interview Beseau, who then confessed to numerous domestic-violence related crimes including the arson.
Due a technicality, the presiding judge in the case excluded the portion of the confession including information about the arson. However, other aspects of the confession were admissible in court. That was appealed by Beseau and his attorney to the Washington state Supreme Court but was denied a hearing.
Four years after the incident and three years after Beseau’s arrest, the case was taken up by Spokane County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Deric Martin. After eight days of trial, Beseau was convicted on Sept. 21 and sentencing scheduled for today (Friday).
Martin wrote an e-mail to Chief Mike Thompson and Fire Marshal Kevin Miller thanking Mehaffey for his persistence in this case.
“Once the trail began, Mr. Mehaffey was absolutely invaluable to me as a prosecutor,” Martin wrote. “He repeatedly agreed to do extra work.”
Mehaffey told the commissioners that Beseau will likely serve eight years. At one point, the suspect had been offered a plea deal and would have only served three to six months.
“He wanted his day in court,” Mehaffey said. “Life is full of choices.”