Home Fire News Man admits to starting house fire that killed his mother and sister

Man admits to starting house fire that killed his mother and sister


Source: Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office

Cole Waterman
The Saginaw News, Mich.

A Saginaw man has admitted to setting fire to his Saginaw house, a blaze that killed his mother and sister.

Jason E. Desmone on Tuesday, April 23, appeared before Saginaw County Circuit Judge Darnell Jackson and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson. Desmone, 39, also pleaded as a habitual offender, having previously been convicted of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

In exchange for Desmone’s pleas, Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Blair Stevenson agreed to dismiss two counts each of first-degree premeditated murder and felony murder.

To establish his guilt, a shackled and jumpsuit-clad Desmone answered questions posed to him by defense attorney James F. Piazza. Through his answers, Desmone said that on Feb. 12, 2018, he was inside his family home at 1732 Wood St. when he lit curtains on fire with a Bic lighter. He fled the house, leaving sister Melissa Shook, 41, and mother Adair Smithpeters, 71, inside.

When bystanders asked Desmone if anyone else was inside, he told at least one person there wasn’t, he said.

Firefighters pulled Shook and Smithpeters from the house after responding to the 10:20 p.m. blaze. They were transported to an area hospital by a battalion chief’s vehicle and a police cruiser as a Mobile Medical Response ambulance was stuck in a snowbank. Shook died shortly thereafter and her mother died a few days later at Detroit Receiving Hospital.

The home had been condemned by the city hours before the fire for a number of housing violations and the family had until 5 p.m. on that day to vacate, according to city Chief Inspector John Stemple.

During an earlier Cobbs hearing, during which a judge outlines the likely sentence a defendant will face if convicted, Judge Jackson indicated he’d sentence Desmone within the guidelines of 270 to 562 months.

Desmone’s sentencing date is pending.


©2019 The Saginaw News, Mich.

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