Medford man to pay restitution, serve probation for burning family home

A 41-year-old man avoided prison time but was ordered today to pay nearly $67,000 in restitution for setting a 2012 fire that damaged a rural Medford hilltop home he shared at the time with his wife and children.

Paul Lister Newcombe, 41, was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay the restitution for his no-contest plea to a charge of first-degree arson stemming from the November 2012 fire.

The first-degree arson charge could have been handled as a Measure 11 crime in Oregon with a mandatory minimum of sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison. But to qualify for that under Measure 11, the arson must be proven to cause "a threat of serious physical injury," Oregon law states.

"It takes a lot to get to that threshold for Measure 11," Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said today.

Without the Measure 11 application, Newcombe qualified for probation because of his lack of criminal history, Heckert says. If he had a lengthy criminal history, Newcombe could have qualified for a prison sentence of up to three years, she says.

Under Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia's order, Newcombe could end up serving up to six months in jail if he does not fully comply with his probation requirements, court records state.

Newcombe said in court today that he intends to seek a hearing on the restitution amount, Heckert says.

The conviction stems from a fire that consumed the 4,000-square-foot house at 5142 W. Griffin Creek Road where Newcombe lived with his wife Jennifer Newcombe and their four children.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Paul Newcombe Oct. 23, 2013, following a lengthy investigation by Oregon State Police.

Since the fire, Jennifer Newcombe has filed for divorce and has filed a civil suit seeking damages from the fire. Neither case has settled, court records show.

— Mark Freeman

Read more in Tuesday's Mail Tribune.

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