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Man admits 'fixation' on house led him to set fire to it

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A “delusional” man who set fire to a house while people were inside pleaded guilty Thursday to arson and separately to making a death threat and was sentenced to 22 months in custody, possibly served in a secure treatment facility.

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Benjamin Paul Komisar, 36, of Grand Valley, Ont. admitted in the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound that he went to a house in Southgate Township on Southgate Road 24 and set the exterior on fire last Dec. 11.

Someone inside saw Komisar outside the house and went out to investigate, Grey County Crown attorney Peter Leger told the court. Komisar was seen running from the scene with a gas can and was heard yelling something like “Go . . . yourself.”

People who were inside the house put the fire out with a blanket and pots of water and called 911. The house damage was minor. Komisar was seen driving away in a silver Acura car.

Leger said Komisar had a “fixation” with that house and believed it had underground tunnels. “Komisar believed these tunnels were part of a satanic cult which he was trying to destroy.”

One of the people who lived in the house told police he feared Komisar would come back to hurt them. He showed police a Facebook Messenger post from Komisar which asked for the name of someone in Orangeville, who he vowed to deal with.

“I really just need one name. Then I can torture the rest out of that one.” His message also said “Jesus ain’t around anymore. For the forgiving time is turning into the killing time.”

Police located and arrested Komisar in a motel in Orangeville two days after the fire.

Thursday he sat in a room at Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, wearing a COVID mask and orange prisoner garb, during the hearing held by teleconference due to the pandemic. He’s been receiving medication while in detention, his lawyer, Jill Gamble, told the court.

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He has struggled with bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder, she said. His supportive family have told Gamble about his mental health needs. All, including Komisar himself, hope he’ll be allowed to serve his time at St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre in in Brockville, she said.

“His family believes he was very delusional,” on the day of his offences. While Gamble said she wasn’t sure he believes that, “he’s done exceptionally well, understanding the process and certainly understanding that he needs some assistance.”

Both Crown and defence recommended 22 month in custody, less presentence custody served, which Justice Julia Morneau imposed. After enhanced presentence custody credit of 206 days, 454 days of his 660-day sentence are left to serve.

Morneau also imposed three years probation as was recommended. Terms included not to possess an incendiary device, to continue with counselling and treatment as may be recommended, not have anything to do with people he shouldn’t as named in the order, and keep at least 500 metres away from the house he lit on fire.

Separately, she ordered a DNA sample and prohibited Komisar from possessing weapons, including handguns and semi-automatic firearms for life, and other weapons including long guns for 10 years.

Morneau said it would have been very frightening for the residents of the house Komisar targeted, and that she was glad nothing worse happened. Morneau told Komisar she was glad his medicine was helping and that she hoped he’d keep taking it. She said the sentence reflected the gravity of the offence and Komisar’s circumstances.

She recommended Komisar serve his sentence at St. Lawrence Valley.

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