Arsonist goes to prison for ‘deliberate and malicious..without any comprehensible motive’ Petrolia fire

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Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighter responded to a fire at Duststop Filters on Centre St. July 24.

Blaze at Duststop caused $2.5 million in damage and losses

The man who intentionally set the Duststop Air Filter factory in Petrolia on fire will spend two-and-a-half years in prison.

Jacob Bondy, 41 from Sarnia, plead guilty to the July 24 arson – along with several other charges – on Sept. 22 and was sentenced Thursday.

Bondy was ordered to pay more than $170,000 to the Duststop owners for the damage he caused.

The two sides had come to a virtual agreement on sentence length. The Crown asked for two years less a day for Bondy. Defense lawyer David Stoesser said his client asked this be increased by a day to two years. This would send Bondy to a federal prison where he would have access to a wider range of treatment programs.

But Austin felt the joint position in the two-year range wasn’t enough. In addition to the arson, this included eight theft charges, one bail breach and cocaine possession. “I do not accept that a sentence of two years is sufficient,” Austin says.

Austin took the rare step of adding six months to Bondy’s prison sentence.

“This sentence length provides a greater confidence that Mr. Bondy will have access to, and complete programming, within the institution where he is ultimately placed.

“It is and should be an extremely rare occasion when the court departs from joint positions and joint submissions,” Austin says. “It is most unusual for the court, and for myself as a judge.”

A surveillence video showed Bondy – who worked at the Centre Street plant at the time – walking into the area.

Details of the footage were outlined in court on Monday. The video shows Bondy walking around the Duststop facility just after 6:30 pm holding a small rag. He checks for other employees, and after finding the room empty moves behind a conveyor belt. 

Bondy can then be seen hurling a lit object across the room. He quickly walks away from the fire and leaves. The surveillance video shows the fire slowly grow before erupting into a blaze, prompting an evacuation and call to the fire department. 

While it was clear Bondy was the arsonist, a reason for the fire was never given and Bondy chose not to speak when offered a chance by the judge.

Bondy’s lawyer, David Stoesser, says Bondy suffered a “catastrophic head injury” during a car crash in 2000.

Austin accepted that this injury “fundamentally changed him in terms of his mental health and functioning, and how his life unfolded.”

Stoesser says following the crash Bondy developed kleptomania and ADD, as well as a criminal record for various property crimes. Stoesser says his client has difficulty controlling his impulses, and believed this led to the arson.

“From my view of the surveillance video at the site of the arson, impulse control certainly factors in,” Stoesser says.

But Crown attorney Sarah Carmody didn’t accept this position. “That is a more deliberate offense in which decisions had to be made… It’s not just grabbing an item from a store and leaving,” she says of the arson.

Austin also did not believe the arson could be blamed on any mental health issues. “He was not known to have a motive that is any reason to be disgruntled with his employer, a fellow employee, or place of employment,” she says. “It cannot be seen as attributable to kleptomania, and it is not causally linked… with any mental health condition.

“It didn’t appear to have the hallmark of an impulsive act. It appeared to be deliberate and malicious, and it appeared to be without any comprehensible motive,” says Austin.

Bondy received 28 months for the arson and an additional two months and 13 days that he had remaining on a conditional discharge prior to being arrested.

Austin did accept the joint position of 90 days time served total for the 10 other crimes, but noted she did so reluctantly.

“I view this to be an extremely lenient sentence proposal for these matters, given the repetitive and persistent nature of that offending behavior,” she says.

Austin also had harsh words for the original enforcement of the conditional sentence. Bondy’s first two theft attempts took place in January, but he was allowed to remain out of custody and went on to commit nine more crimes including the arson.

“As of January 2020… this plan and this sentence was clearly off the rails,” Austin said of the conditional sentence. “The community-based measures failed to protect the community or bind Mr. Bondy to behave within the boundaries of the law prior to his detention and this sentencing.”

On restitution, Carmody was seeking $25,000 for Duststop’s owners and $1.75 million for their insurance company Sedgwick Canada. Total damage is estimated between $2.5-2.7 million.

Stoesser countered there should be no restitution orders, and that the matter should be left to the civil court.

Austin ordered Bondy to compensate Duststop for $171,765. This total includes a $25,000 insurance deductible as well as $146,765 in property damage not covered by insurance that the owners have to pay.

Austin said in cases like these there’s a “high interest on the part of the court to make a victim whole financially where possible.

“The business owners were put through an extraordinary amount of work, stress, and emotional turmoil to deal with the devastating impact of this fire on the business,” says Austin, noting a victim impact statement from owner Kevin Goodhand.

But the judge did not order any compensation to Sedgwick. The company will have to pursue any potential settlement in the civil court. .