DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has again sentenced a convicted arsonist to at least 41 years in prison for a fire that killed a Detroit firefighter in 2008.
The case was sent back to Wayne County Judge Michael James Callahanby by the appeals court, which said the judge didn’t fully explain why Mario Willis should get a sentence that exceeded guidelines.
Judge Callahan said the death of Walt Harris was foreseeable because the house had been severely damaged by a prior fire.
Willis was accused of paying a handyman $20 to burn down the abandoned two-story house, which belonged to his girlfriend. In 2010, Willis was convicted of arson and second-degree murder.
Harris, a 19-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, and other members of Engine 23 were trapped when the roof of the house collapsed. The other crewmen were rescued, but Harris’ life couldn’t be saved.
Harris’ widow, Syri Harris, said having to return to court was a “slap in the face.”
“Absolutely, it brought it back,” Harris said. “It’s overwhelming at times, but I try to just … keep on and move forward.”
“It’s been traumatic,” she added. “My six boys have been through a lot. We just continue to focus on the vision that my husband had for our family, and we just keep moving forward.”
Harris thanked several firefighters who sat with her in the audience Friday in a show of support.
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