No prison time for Mitchell man who burned abandoned house

Smoke rises from the action of a structure fire that occurred on Saturday morning on HWY 37 just north of the 263rd Street intersection north of Ethan. (Matt Gade / Republic)

A Mitchell man was given a suspended 10-year prison sentence Tuesday for burning an abandoned house to the ground in November.

Michael Janssen, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, in February and was also sentenced to 10 years of probation.

“I made those poor decisions, and I regret every bit of it. And I can’t take it back," Janssen said prior to sentencing.

The fire was reported at about 6 a.m. on Nov. 9 at a house near the intersection of South Dakota Highway 37 and 263rd Street, close to Ethan. No one was in the house at the time of the fire, and no injuries resulted.

Investigation by the Davison County Sheriff's Office, Ethan Fire Department, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and South Dakota State Fire Marshal led to Janssen, who was reported to have given a full confession a few days after the fire.


As a condition of his suspended sentence, Janssen, who said his addiction to alcohol led to the arson, must continue substance abuse treatment and aftercare.

“This was a really senseless act. You were clearly not in your right state of mind when you did this,” Giles said. “You have to take steps in your life to overcome your demons and make the changes you need to make so that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Janssen was given credit for eight days served in jail and was ordered to pay a $500 fine and $106.50 in court costs, as well as court-appointed attorney's fees.

A hearing to determine the amount of restitution Janssen will be required to pay for the arson is scheduled to be held in June. If all parties, including the victim, agree on a restitution amount, that hearing may be cancelled.

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