A man considered a “serial arsonist” by Lexington fire investigators was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for his role in several offenses committed roughly five years ago.
Robert Bruce Stevens, 42, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of arson, wanton endangerment, burglary and violating conditions of release stemming from two separate cases, according to court documents.
In July 2018, Stevens was arrested for allegedly setting multiple fires at three different residential locations and one commercial property, according to a release from the Lexington Fire Department at the time. Fire investigators believed he set 12 fires on Goodloe and Warnock streets between September 2017 and July 2018.
“A serial arsonist is defined as a fire-setter who sets three or more fires with a significant cooling off period between fires,” former Lexington Fire Department Chief Kristin Chilton said at the time. “We believe Stevens meets the classification of a serial arsonist based on the pattern of fires set.”
Stevens was indicted on nine counts of second-degree arson, one count of attempted arson, three counts of second-degree burglary, one count of third-degree burglary, four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, two counts of third-degree criminal mischief and one count of tampering with physical evidence, according to court records.
Nineteen months after the indictment, Stevens was released on a $145,000 surety bond under the conditions that he be on electronic monitoring, lived with a family member and underwent random drug and alcohol testing.
Less than four months after being released from jail, Stevens was arrested and charged with second-degree arson in a separate case, according to court documents. Two counts of violating conditions of his release were added to his first case.
In January, Stevens agreed to plead guilty in both cases, according to court documents. In his first case, the plea deal amended down four of the nine second-degree arson charges to third-degree arson, court documents show.
Five counts of second-degree arson, three counts of burglary, two counts of wanton endangerment, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of attempted arson and tampering with physical evidence were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
In the second case, the second-degree arson charge was amended down to third-degree arson while a second-degree burglary charge was dismissed, according to court documents.
Fayette Circuit Judge Julie Goodman followed prosecutors’ recommendation on sentencing, giving Stevens five years for each third-degree arson charge, nine years for the burglary charge and one year each for two wanton endangerment charges in the first case. The charges were set to run concurrently with the burglary charge, meaning they’d be served at the same time.
He was given one year for the arson charge in the second case. The charge from that case was set to run consecutively with the charges from the first case, giving him 10 total years in prison.
Stevens was given more than four years of credit for time he’s already served while waiting for the case to be resolved in court.
Stevens was also ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution from the first case and $1,868 in restitution from the second case.
Stevens was charged in the arson cases after video surveillance showed Stevens setting multiple fires to a privacy fence only feet away from two sleeping occupants at 255 Warnock Street, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Two of the properties involved in the fires had to be demolished and the other two suffered moderate damage, the fire department said.
The fire department spent hundreds of hours investigating the fires and believe Stevens acted alone, Chilton said in a news release at the time.