‘A menace to society’: Victims rekindle rage against Fairbanks-area serial arsonist

Jamison Gallion
Convicted arsonist Jamison Gallion looks back toward the gallery as he leaves the courtroom of his sentencing hearing on Jan. 23, 2023. (Dan Bross/KUAC)

A sentencing hearing got underway Monday for a teenager who pleaded guilty to arson attacks in the Pleasant Valley Two Rivers area, east of Fairbanks in the summer of 2021.

The hearing was an opportunity for arson victims to speak directly to 19 year-old Jamison Gallion, before a judge who will decide how much time he serves in prison.

Gallion is being sentenced for felony crimes of arson, burglary, criminal mischief and terroristic threatening related to seven structure fires including two homes and the Two Rivers Lodge, which were occupied when he started the fires in the summer of 2021.

Judge Paul Lyle presided over a packed courtroom for day one of the sentencing hearing, as several victims spoke about arson impacts and losses. Ginger McKee shared before and after fire photos of her multi-structure property.

“This is my home that Jamison Gallion set on fire on July 3rd, 2021,” McKee said. “There were six people in these buildings asleep at 2 a.m. when he came to our house and he set fire to it, and I truly believe in my heart that he had every intention for us to die in that fire.”

Everyone escaped, but two residences and a large shop building were destroyed, along with the belongings of the McKee family and rental tenant Margaret Okinghouse.

Okinghouse, a retired teacher, says the attack changed her life.

“I’m learning the meaning of words I never dreamed would be applied to me: victim, survivor, homeless, destitute, post-traumatic stress disorder, to name just a few,” she said.   

Okinghouse described Gallion as evil.

“I would fear for the safety of members of any community you reside in,” she said. “You’re a menace to society. It would bring me great joy if you spent the rest of your life in prison.”

Two of the fires Gallion admitted setting destroyed and damaged Pleasant Valley Community Association buildings. The association also received anonymous letters, sent by Gallion, in which he took responsibility for the attacks and made veiled threats.

Lyle referenced receiving an apology to victims from Gallion earlier this month, but it remains unclear what motivated the attacks and why the Pleasant Valley Two Rivers area was targeted.

Community association founding board member Bob Sugden addressed Gallion directly in court.

“The bottom line, sir, is that you terrorized our community,” Sugden said. “You have physically changed the culture of our community. It is not the same community I joined 20 years ago and it will probably never come back to the life that we had.  All because you felt stress and needed to calm yourself down?”

Gallion appeared shaken by the victims’ testimony during the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon. Lyle said he expects to sentence Gallion on Thursday.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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