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Spokane man sentenced to five years in prison for St. Charles Parish fire

Rio A. Mirabal pleaded guilty to starting the fire at St. Charles Parish and School on March 18, 2021.

SPOKANE, Wash — A Spokane man, who set fire to St. Charles Parrish and School in 2021, will serve five years in federal prison for arson.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington said Rio  A. Mirabal was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,981,859.07 for damages from the fire and will serve three years of supervised release following his release from prison.

The five-year sentence is the mandatory minimum for the offense. The judge in the case noted that Mirabal had a history of both mental illness and drug abuse.

The fire was set on March 18, 2021 and heavily damaged the administrative offices of the church on North Alberta Street and its attached school. It also forced the closure of the school and postponed Mass at the church. St. Charles students began remote learning shortly after the fire.

Mirabal was identified following a tip from a community member who saw a surveillance video that was released by police. Mirabal was also linked to the burglary/arson through forensic evidence  

According to court documents, Mirabel broke a window on one of the church’s doors and was able to reach in and unlock the door. He was also seen on surveillance video prying open a cabinet and pulling out four bottles of wine. He opened the wine, poured some on the ground, and put one bottle in his coat pocket.

Surveillance video also captured Mirabal taking a cross off the wall and wearing it as he walked around the building. He was also seen holding a lit candle, according to documents.

Investigators believe Mirabal set multiple fires around the building. 

Fire investigators found one of the fires was started in the parish office in the main lobby of the school. They believe the fire quickly spread through the offices and into the attic, according to documents.

After the fire at St. Charles was lit, the suspect walked around neighborhoods in the area tearing up and burning a Bible, Spokane police said.

No one was injured in the fire. A priest sleeping in his living quarters was awakened by a Spokane police officer who first noticed the fire when he pulled into the parking lot of St. Charles and banged on windows and doors to wake anyone who might be in the building.

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