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Judge sentences fire suspects to jail and probation

Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 20:35:10-05

CRIPPLE CREEK – The two adults charged with starting the High Chateau Fire last summer will be locked up at the Teller County Cail until at least April. District Court Judge Scott Sells sentenced 24-year-old David Renfrow to 70 days in jail, 10 years of supervised probation and 100 days of community service.

Kegan Owens, 19, was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 10 years probation and 100 hours of community service. The third suspect, a juvenile male, was also sentenced to probation.  Both men pleaded guilty to charges of Firing Woods and Prairie, a Class Six Felony.

Investigators believe the three went on a camping trip in late June on land that Owens family owns in the High Chateau subdivision and started a campfire in violation of the Stage 2 burn restrictions.  The three left the campsite early thinking they had properly extinguished the fire.

High winds on June 29 rekindled the flames and caused them to spread. The fast burning wildfire forced the evacuation of some 1,700 residents, destroyed 8 homes and burned 1,400 acres before it was fully contained.

Deputy District Attorney Anne Francis read statements from the victims aloud in the courtroom during the sentencing hearing. The named victims did not specifically seek prison time or jail sentences for the defendants.

“I was actually very surprised at the compassion that they showed for these three individuals,” Francis said. “The idea was that it was a mistake, granted a criminal mistake, but an accident.”

Judge Sells told the defendants that he was adding the jail sentences because he wanted there to be some measure of punishment for their violation of the county fire restrictions and to send a message to the public that those safety precautions should be taken seriously.

He also waived some of the common court fees associated with felony convictions in hopes that the defendants will be more quickly able to provide the victims with restitution.

“They’re getting the benefit of probation, 10 years supervised,” Francis said. “They’re going to be able to stay in the community, work, pay-back that restitution. But as a punitive measure, the judge had the ability to add up to 90 days in jail.”

Francis and the Victims Advocacy Unit of the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have 91 days to contact as many people who were impacted by the fire as possible in order to prepare that restitution claim. She expects the cost to run into the millions.

“If you had to leave town because you were in the evacuation zone and had to spend a couple of nights at the Holiday Inn, you can ask for that to be reimbursed,” Francis explained. “If your dog spent the night at the kennel, you can ask for that to be reimbursed.”

Owens father Sean told News 5 that he wanted to read an apology on behalf of his family to the victims in court but was denied that opportunity. He offered to personally help the fire victims to clear and restore their land from the fire damage.

Kegan Owens has been working two jobs as he saves up money to begin paying restitution to the victims. Sean said his son was applying for a 3rd job but will have to postpone the interview due to the jail sentence.

Renfrow has not been working due to a disability. However, his attorney gave the court a document from his occupational therapist indicating that he will ready to look for work soon.