Man Gets Prison for Arson That Killed Detroit Firefighter

Detroit Firefighter Walter Harris was killed while battling the house fire.


Editor's Note -- On Friday morning, a judge re-sentenced the man to the same term -- 41.5 to 61.5 years in prison.

Jan. 24--A man convicted of murder and arson in connection with the 2008 fire that killed Detroit firefighter Walter Harris will be re-sentenced today.

A jury in Wayne County Circuit Court convicted Mario Willis of second-degree murder and arson after testimony that he paid one of his employees $20 to set fire to a house owned by his then-girlfriend. Harris died trying to put out the blaze when the roof collapsed. The man convicted of setting the blaze, Darian Dove, was sentenced in 2010 to 17-30 years in prison.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Callahan originally sentenced Willis to 41 1/2 to 62 1/2 years on the murder charge, with about 10 to 20 years for arson, ordering him to serve both sentences at the same time.

But Willis appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals sent the case back to Callahan for resentencing. In the 2012 order, the Appeals Court questioned why Callahan disregarded the presentence investigation's suggested sentence of about 18 to 31 years in prison on the murder charge. In their decision, the Appeals Court judges said Callahan "did not justify the extent of its departure in this case."

Willis was scheduled to be resentenced in December, but it was delayed until today when he told the judge he needed additional time to retain an attorney.

He is scheduled to be sentenced today at 9 a.m.

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