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Arsonist faces two to five years in prison

Aug 7, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The Lander man who burned a vacant house on Goodrich Drive in December faces two to five years in prison and seven years of supervised probation after sentencing July 3.

If Chance Clark, formerly known as Chance Moore, violates his probation terms, Wyoming 9th Judicial District Judge Norman E. Young said the subject will be sentenced to six to 12 more years in prison.

Clark pleaded guilty in April to one count each of first-degree arson and probation violation. He reportedly started a fire Dec. 4 in a home owned by Scott and Mary Palmer.

Two other charges were dropped as the result of a plea agreement.

Victims speak

According to reports, the Palmers had moved to Laramie, and their vacant Lander home was under contract for a sale at the time of the blaze, which caused $140,000 in smoke and fire damage.

"What he's done to us is going to affect us a whole hell of a lot longer," Scott Palmer said at the hearing. "He did this, but we're the ones paying for it because some stupid kid couldn't think of something better to do than burn down our house."

Scott Palmer said he couldn't sell the house Clark burned. According to his testimony, the fire left the Palmers bankrupt and threatened their ability to afford their current home. Scott Palmer said Clark also made explicitly violent threats against the Palmers's immediate and extended family.

Clark sees the prison sentence as a vacation, Palmer said.

"He thinks he's going to Disneyland," Palmer said. "He's just tickled to death."

Mary Palmer only said she agreed with her husband and asked the judge to keep Clark far away from her family. She then choked up and returned to her seat.

After hearing from all involved, Young added a probation condition not included in the plea agreement to prohibit Clark from having any contact with the Palmer family or their extended family.

'F** U!!'

Letters hand-written in black ink on the back, right shoulder of Clark's orange prison shirt spelled out the expletive "F** U!!" though the word was written without a "c." Writing in other locations on the shirt was indecipherable.

The message was clearly visible to everyone seated in the gallery. Scott Palmer thought the expletive was directed at the Palmer family, who was seated directly behind the defendant.

Palmer called the phrase "disrespectful" while speaking at the hearing.

Two-part sentence

The two- to five-year prison term as part of Clark's sentence is a penalty for violating probation. Clark was on probation Dec. 4 and violated the terms of his probation by committing arson.

The original probation was related to a Nov. 29 shoplifting incident at the Lander Maverik Country Store that involved more than $1,000 in stolen cigarettes.

Moore also was on probation for a 2011 aggravated assault and battery charge and for interfering with police. Officials said he wielded a knife at an undercover officer while in the company of a girl who had been reported missing.

Clark will receive 212 days credit for time served since his arrest.

The actual arson charge led to the six- to 12-year jail sentence, which was suspended in favor of seven years probation.

"I'd like to apologize for everything I've done," Clark said. "I know I've caused a lot of pain and a lot of trouble."

Clark also will have to pay $1,700 in restitution to the Palmers for out-of-pocket costs related to the fire and $140,000 to their insurance company.

Palmer connection

At a previous hearing, Lander detective Fred Cox said Clark had dated the Palmers's teenage daughter. Clark reportedly was frustrated when the girl didn't return to Lander.

"I went up to my ex's house because I was mad and I was planning on burning the house down," Clark said at a change of plea hearing April 11.

He was arrested on a warrant for violating probation after a lengthy standoff with law enforcement at a residence in the 900 block of Washakie Street in Lander.

Lander police chief Jim Carey said Clark, then identified as Moore, exited the residence carrying a hatchet. Police confronted him at gunpoint, and Carey said Clark immediately dropped the weapon and complied with commands.

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