Arsonist Takes Plea Deal; Avoids Trials

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A Payson man has avoided several trials by pleading guilty this week in three separate cases, including setting fire to a Little League concession stand earlier this year.

Taylor James Vance-Parker, 21, admitted he started a fire at the Pinal Mountain Little League fields in Claypool in February, causing some $60,000 in damages to bleachers, a storage area and snack stand.

Investigators originally ruled the fire an accident, but several weeks later learned that while in jail, Vance-Parker had bragged about starting a fire at a baseball field.

Jail officers interviewed Vance-Parker and he admitted he started the blaze with a can of white spray paint, according to the Gila County Attorney’s Office. Officers found a can of white spray paint near the concession stand.

Vance-Parker’s shoes — which detectives had seized as evidence in a separate case — also had white spray paint on them.

On Tuesday, Vance-Parker pleaded guilty to criminal trespass, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of arson and burglary.

On Nov. 24, police found Vance-Parker living in an abandoned trailer at the Payson Trailer Ranch, 300 W. Bonita St., in Payson. The owner of the park suspected someone had broken into one of the trailers. When officers arrived, they found Vance-Parker inside one, several of his personal items in the trailer. These items suggested Vance-Parker had been staying in the trailer for some time, according to Deputy County Attorney Marc Stanley, who prosecuted the case.

Then on Dec. 22, Payson Police officer Brandon Buckner arrested Vance-Parker during a traffic stop. Buckner had stopped a vehicle after the driver blew through a stop sign. Vance-Parker, who had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, was a passenger in the vehicle.

As Buckner talked to the driver, he noticed Vance-Parker had his hand on the door handle.

“I’m going to run,” Vance-Parker reportedly told Buckner.

Buckner ordered everyone out of the vehicle and told Vance-Parker to put his hands behind his back. Vance-Parker took off running.

Buckner “quickly caught” Vance-Parker and arrested him, Stanley said in a press release. A search of Vance-Parker revealed a needle in his front pocket, reportedly used for illegal drugs, Stanley said.

Under the plea agreement, Vance-Parker faces 4.5 to 6 years in prison and supervised probation following his release. The plea agreement also requires Vance-Parker to reimburse the Pinal Mountain Little League for damages.

The Honorable Gary Scales will sentence Vance-Parker in all three cases on Sept. 3 in a Globe courtroom.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office, the Payson Police Department, the Globe Fire Department and the Tri-City Fire Department assisted in the cases.

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