York County judge offers arsonist a life plan for success, attorney says

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Fire destroyed this barn in the 800 block of Second Street in East Manchester Twp. the night of Sunday, May 21, 2017, Mount Wolf Fire Chief Mark Shroyer said.
(Photo courtesy of Kathranne Witmer

A York County judge didn't simply hand down a prison sentence to a defendant who burned down an East Manchester Township barn in 2017 — he also gave the young man a life plan to follow, according to the arsonist's attorney.

The structured nature of Justin Bonham's punishment and court conditions amount to a guide for becoming a productive adult, and "helps put an extra set of eyes" on the man in addition to his family support structure, defense attorney Korey Leslie said.

"It's not a sentence. It's a plan," said Leslie. "I think he is ... probably overwhelmed. But he's relieved he has a second chance."

During Bonham's sentencing hearing Wednesday, Feb. 27, presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock sentenced the 20-year-old to a year minus a day to two years minus two days in York County Prison, plus five years of probation.

The judge ruled that Bonham cannot be released from prison before a satisfactory parole plan is in place that ensures whatever services he needs are set up, according to Leslie. Bonham also cannot be released until he's undergone a drug and alcohol evaluation and has a plan to follow any recommended treatment, he said.

York County Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock, seen here speaking at May 2017 graduation for veterans who graduated from York County's treatment court system.

Trebilcock ruled that after being released, Bonham must spend six months on electronic GPS monitoring and follow a 9 p.m. curfew, according to Leslie.

After that first six months, he will no longer have to be electronically monitored but must follow his 9 p.m. curfew for an additional 18 months, Leslie said.

'A lot to prove': Another of Trebilcock's court requirements is that Bonham spend 35 hours a week either working, furthering his education or performing community service, according to the attorney.

Bonham, now of Delta, also must consistently make restitution payments, Leslie said.

He is responsible for paying $40,000, or half of the $80,000 damage determination, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.

Korey Leslie

Leslie said the structured sentence will allow his client to address personal issues he was ignoring and that affected his decision-making.

"Justin has a lot to prove — not only to his family and to the court, but also to the people who have suffered because of his crimes," Leslie said.

Northeastern Regional Police said Bonham and accomplice Corbin Miller torched the barn together. Bonham pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to the second-degree felonies of arson and conspiracy to commit arson.

Earlier plea: Miller, 20, of Mount Wolf, pleaded guilty a year ago to the same charges and received the same prison sentence, plus three years' probation, records state.

Justin Bonham

Miller also was ordered to pay half of the $80,000 restitution, court records state.

The pair were arrested in September 2017.

They torched a barn in the 800 block of Second Street in the Saginaw area of East Manchester Township the night of May 21, 2017, Northeastern Regional Police said.

When officers and Eagle Fire Co. firefighters arrived, they found the two-story barn engulfed in flames, which caused the roof to collapse, officials said at the time. 

No animals were inside the barn and no one was hurt, fire officials said — but the barn, valued at $50,000, was destroyed.

Also destroyed were a pop-up camper, front-end loader and other items stored inside the barn. That property was valued at $30,000, officials said.

'Saw red skies': During a Sept. 6, 2017, interview with Northeastern Regional Police about dozens of reported vandalism incidents, Bonham admitted to driving Miller to the barn on the night of the fire and stealing several items, including a wooden cabinet, according to police.

Corbin Miller

Bonham and Miller blamed each other for lighting the blaze, according to court documents.

Both said the fire was started inside the barn by using brake-cleaning fluid as an accelerant.

Bonham said that after Miller lit the fire, the two fled the barn and met up at nearby train tracks where they heard explosions "and saw red skies," court documents state.

Police began looking at the men after going to Miller's home Sept. 11, 2017, about another matter and finding a wooden cabinet stolen from the barn, police said.

During the interview, Miller said he intended to steal a part from a truck parked in the barn, but there was no truck in the barn.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.