Man who set fire to inhabited Lake Country home jailed for 18 months

Jailed for fire at family home

A man who set fire to a Lake Country home in the early hours of a quiet Sunday in the summer of 2018 was sentenced to 18 months in jail Thursday.

Matthew Hanson was caught on surveillance camera setting fire to a family's home on Robinson Road, just before 7 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2018. David Yerema was sleeping on his back porch on the warm summer morning when he woke to the smell of smoke and the sound of screams from his wife. The bedroom of Yerema's 17-year-old son was directly above the flames, while his 14-year-old daughter's room was also nearby.

Surveillance footage shown in court earlier this year shows the Yerema family frantically trying to put out the flames. David Yerema's pajama pants catch fire at one point, leaving him with second-degree burns. While the flames reached upwards of six feet high, the family was able to put out the fire before it destroyed the home.

The Yerema's house appears to have been targeted completely randomly.

Later that morning, police found a stolen blue pickup truck crashed nearby and at 9:20 a.m., Hanson was arrested.

Hanson ended up pleading guilty to arson in relation to an inhabited property in the fall of 2019, a week before he was set to begin trial. While his sentencing hearing began this February, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his sentencing.

Earlier this month, Hanson's defence counsel told Justice Steven Wilson that Hanson, who was intoxicated at the time of the arson, has turned his life around for the sake of his infant daughter. Defence lawyer Ben Lynskey said Hanson has been sober for 20 months, and has maintained steady employment as a drywaller.

As such, Lynskey asked the court to forego a jail sentence, and instead grant him a three-year period of supervision in the community on strict conditions. Crown prosecutor David Ruse, meanwhile, sought a three- to five-year jail sentence.

Justice Wilson ultimately handed Hanson an 18-month jail sentence, while giving him enhanced presentence credit for 36 days. This leaves him with 511 days left to serve, but he'll become eligible for parole in less than six months.

During sentencing submissions back in February, David Yerema said the terrifying incident has had a lasting impact on his family.

“This isn't over for us, this continues,” he said, holding back tears.

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