Downtown Kingman arsonist will serve time, then probation

Evidence of long-term mental illness

Brian Lee Caviness was sentced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of probation, for setting fires around downtown Kingman. (SPARKY KNOWLTON/Miner)

Brian Lee Caviness was sentced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of probation, for setting fires around downtown Kingman. (SPARKY KNOWLTON/Miner)

KINGMAN - The serial arsonist who admitted to setting at least 16 fires in the downtown area last winter - including one that involved an occupied home - was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Wednesday, followed by three years of probation he must serve after his release.

Kingman Police arrested Brian Lee Caviness, 26, on March 18 after an investigator witnessed him attempt to set a fire.

Indicted on 18 crimes, 11 of them felonies, Caviness entered into a plea deal July 2 when he said he was guilty of two counts of arson of a structure or property, a class 5 felony.

Judge Steven Conn sentenced him to prison on one count and to a consecutive term of probation on the second.

The unusually quick resolution came despite the fact Conn postponed the case in May after he granted a request from Caviness' attorney to have the man examined by mental health professionals.

Defense attorney Carlene Lacy in court papers said Caviness admitted to having long-term mental health issues. She said he told her he was not present when he set the fires, but that he had an "out of body" experience when he committed the arsons or was forced to set something on fire.

Lacy in an interview Thursday said Caviness was found competent to stand trial and assist her in his defense.

"He understood what he did was wrong," she said.

According to court papers, from January to March Caviness burned two mobile homes and a vehicle. He set fire to five commercial trash containers and started seven brushfires.

The mounting number of incidents attracted intense scrutiny from Kingman Police and Fire investigators, who covered downtown like a blanket in an effort to catch the arsonist.

While Caviness told his attorney he committed the crimes while in extreme mental crisis, he had the wherewithal to run from the investigator who chased and caught him.

In exchange for his plea, the state dropped the more serious charge of arson of an occupied structure or property, a class 2 felony, and eight other felony charges of arson of a structure or property.

Seven misdemeanor charges for reckless burning were also dropped.