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Vernon arsonist sent to jail for lighting townhouse on fire while roommate slept

VERNON - A Vernon man who flicked a cigarette onto a bedroom mattress while his roommate was asleep in another room admitted the act was ‘effing stupid.’

Brandon Joshua Milligan Boyce, 20, turned himself in the same day of the townhouse fire on July 17, 2014.The blaze resulted in over $137,000 in damages to the unit itself, and also spread to neighbouring townhouse units.

Boyce told police he had a physical altercation with his roommate the night before the fire, Crown counsel Margaret Cissell said during a sentence hearing Tuesday, Oct. 6 in Vernon Provincial Court. Boyce left the unit, and when he came back his room had been trashed, he said. Upset, he flicked a lit cigarette on the mattress and walked out.

During a psychiatric assessment, Boyce said he’d been hit with a socket wrench the night before and wanted retaliation against his roommate. He went to the hospital for treatment of his injury and was released in the early morning hours of July 17.

Boyce’s roommate was asleep in his room when the fire started, and the next door unit was occupied by a mother and her 15-year-old daughter, Cissell said. All were able to flee the burning building unharmed.

Crown asked Provincial Court Judge Mark Takahashi to consider a two-year jail sentence plus two years probation and restitution of over $137,000 for the gutted townhouse unit. The maximum penalty for arson in relation to inhabited property is life imprisonment.

Defence lawyer Nick Jacob said Boyce was blackout drunk at the time, which combined with his anger over the previous night’s altercation, left him unable to think clearly.

“He was pretty severely beaten, your honour,” Jacob said.

After the fire, Boyce was also picked up for breaching his curfew and having a Bic lighter in contravention with his court-ordered conditions.

In a police statement, Boyce said lighting the townhouse on fire was ‘effing stupid’ and later told a psychiatrist he was sorry ‘but sorry doesn’t cut it.’

“I thank God I didn’t hurt them (occupants),” Boyce said in the psychiatric assessment.

Takahashi said it’s lucky no one was hurt or killed in the fire.

“Mr. Boyce would have known for sure (his roommate) was on the premises and that others would be in danger of the fire but he did nothing to warn them,” Takahashi said.

Takahashi ordered a two-year jail term at a provincial correctional centre, followed by two years of probation. With seven-and-a-half months credit for time already served, Boyce faces just under 17 months of new time.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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