Man given 2 years for home arson

A Columbus man who admitted attempting to burn down his grandmother’s house has been sentenced to two years in prison for arson.

But before Michael A. Sample, 24, is turned over to the Indiana Department of Corrections, he must first complete a nine-month term in the county Jail, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann said.

The lesser sentence is for a misdemeanor charge of interference with the reporting of a crime, Heimann said during the Thursday morning sentencing hearing.

In addition to the jail and prison time, Sample also was ordered to pay his grandmother, Virginia Sample, $1,100 in restitution.

That amount is substantially less than the $5,000 in structure and content damage estimated by firefighters after the June 22 incident at 4970 N. Indianapolis Road, the judge said.

The defendant was living with his grandmother when the two got into an argument after she accused him of destroying sunflowers planted outside in the porch area, according to a probable cause affidavit filed three days after the fire by investigating officer D. Matthew Martindale Jr.

While on the stand Thursday, the grandmother said she now believes the damage was actually caused by birds.

After the rhetoric got heated, Michael Sample grabbed cans of fuel additives, walked into both of their bedrooms, pour the additives on each of their beds and ignited them, Martindale wrote.

When the grandmother saw Michael Sample trying to accelerate the flames, she attempted to call 911, the officer said. In response, her grandson disconnected the landline telephone from the wall and broke Virginia Sample’s cellphone, court affidavits state.

When Michael Sample left, Virginia Sample reconnected the landline and called the fire department, the affidavit stated. Her grandson was apprehended by officers a short time later after a brief foot pursuit.

Michael Sample suffers from a mental condition that makes him both impulsive and hyperactive, Virginia Sample said. While he was prescribed medication about 10 years ago, the defendant didn’t take it because it “kept him from protecting himself during confrontations,” she added.

As part of the sentence, Heimann also ordered Michael Sample to undergo anger control therapy.

Besides the charges he pleaded guilty to, Michael Sample was originally charged with misdemeanor counts of battery and resisting law enforcement.

Although the grandmother had originally said Michael Sample pushed her down, she told Heimann she actually just lost her balance and fell.

As part of a plea agreement accepted by Heimann on Sept. 1, the battery and resisting law enforcement charges were dropped.

While a no contact order was issued to keep the grandson away from his grandmother, Virginia Sample has recently asked the court to lift that order, court records state.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.