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Man convicted of setting fires in Tacoma’s Winthrop Apts. gets 7 years

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on April 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
April 22, 2010 3:54 pm

A man who caused turmoil in a downtown Tacoma apartment building last year by setting numerous small fires in garbage rooms was sentenced Thursday to more than seven years in prison.

Theophil James Braa, 46, pleaded guilty in January to two counts of first-degree arson and one count of first-degree reckless burning.

Braa admitted to setting a series of small fires at the Winthrop Apartments between Aug. 16, 2009, and Sept. 2, 2009.

“I never meant to hurt anyone, but I started those fires on purpose,” he wrote in court documents. “I realize now that any one of those fires could have gotten out of control, which would have endangered the lives of the people in the Winthrop Apartments and the firefighters who responded.”

A number of Winthrop residents wrote letters to the judge asking that Braa be severely punished. One from Carol Inman was representative.

“He has caused nothing but turmoil in my apartment building – sleepless nights, zombie-like days, not knowing when alarms were going to go off,” Inman wrote. 

Before being sentenced, Braa apologized to just about everyone he could think of: His late wife, his former neighbors, his friends, city taxpayers, even the judge.

He blamed his plight on “bad decision-making” and said he was ready to “accept punishment.”

Police reported at the time of his arrest that Braa was upset with the apartment management for not addressing some of his complaints.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan said she appreciated Braa’s comments – especially his apologies to his former neighbors – then doled out a sentence of seven years, five months.

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