SNOW HILL — A Virginia man found guilty in April on arson and other charges after purposely setting fire to a vacant building in the south end of Worcester County in 2012 was sentenced last week to 20 years in jail, all but 12 were suspended.
In April, David Clifton Parks, 38, of Melfa, Va., was found guilty of second-degree arson, malicious burning and reckless endangerment for purposely setting fire to a vacant building on Sheephouse Rd. in Pocomoke in April 2012. Back in court last week, Parks was sentenced to a combined 20 years in jail, with eight suspended, netting him a total of 12 years. He was also placed on supervised probation for five years including GPS monitoring, and was ordered to take mandatory alcohol and mental health counseling during his incarceration. Parks was also ordered to pay a combined $2,900 in restitution to the victims.
During the sentencing hearing, Parks admitted he was a chronic arsonist and told Judge Thomas Groton he “had a problem with setting fires.” Presumably in the interest of gaining a lesser sentence for his client, Parks’ defense attorney told the judge Parks was a firefighter. However, Groton quickly corrected the attorney.
“He was a firefighter back in 2006 when he was convicted of arson in Wicomico County,” he said. “He was not a firefighter in 2012.”
Worcester County Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon also testified at Parks’ sentencing hearing and told the court the nature of the arson at a vacant building should not have a bearing on the sentence.
“With the conviction of two arsons, it is clear Mr. Parks has a problem,” said McMahon. “Although the fire he set was in an unoccupied structure, the hazards to the responding firefighters still exist. These firefighters are volunteers and in addition to being placed in harm’s way during the suppression of the fire, they also may be injured responding to and returning from a fire.”
For Parks, the conviction and subsequent sentencing in Worcester came on the heels of a similar outcome in Wicomico County about seven years ago. In 2006, Parks was charged with setting several fires and pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree arson, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of second-degree arson.
He was sentenced to 20 years for first-degree arson with all but eight years suspended. For the two counts of reckless endangerment, he was sentenced to five years each, and he was sentenced to eight years for the second-degree arson count.