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Shannon County man sentenced for setting forest fires

Thursday, April 8, 2004

SHANNON COUNTY -- A southeast Missouri man was sentenced last week for setting forest fires in the Mark Twain National Forest in Shannon County.

United States Attorney Raymond W. Gruender praised the forest service, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Shannon County Sheriff's Department for their work on the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith D. Sorrell handled the prosecution on the case.

Ricky Lee Prewitt, 36, of Winonna was sentenced to nine months on two felony counts of setting fires on two separate tracts of land owned by the United States.

He appeared before District Judge E. Richard Webber.

On April 1, 2003, an MDC airplane spotted two fires burning in Shannon County along Forest Service Road 3169. Forest service personnel were called to the scene.

They discovered the fires were burning timber, underbrush and grass on lands owned by the forest service.

One fire burned 42 acres before being extinguished.

The second fire burned 25 acres before it was put out. The two fires were located within a few miles of each other.

It appeared that each fire was deliberately set since there were no conditions that would explain either fire occurring naturally.

The forest service began an investigation to determine who set the two fires. Their investigation eventually led them to contact Prewitt on May 19, 2003. He admitted he had set two fires.

He said he set one fire with a cigarette lighter and the other fire with a cigarette.

Prewitt said no one helped him set the fires.

He was ordered to pay $13,965 in restitution for timber damages and the cost of suppressing the fire.

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