Ellettsville man sentenced to probation in arson-turned-theft case

An Ellettsville man who told Greenwood police he intentionally set fire to his work van because he didn’t want to work was sentenced to nearly three years of probation on a theft charge.

David R. Wilson, 46, pleaded guilty to theft, a Level 5 felony, in Johnson County Circuit Court on July 26. As part of his plea agreement, a charge of arson as a Level 4 felony was dismissed. He was sentenced to three years in prison, two days of which were executed with the rest of his term being suspended to probation. He also received a jail credit of one day, according to online court records.

Wilson was also ordered to pay $24,755.64 in restitution, which he paid on the day of sentencing, and $185 in court costs. He will be required to undergo mental health evaluation and treatment as recommended, online court records say.

On April 21, 2021, the Greenwood Fire Department responded to the report of a vehicle fire at a Greenwood auto glass business in the 500 block of Polk Street. The 2017 Chevy Savana 1500 van that was caught on fire was deemed a total loss of at least $15,000. The fire also caused damage to tools and the nearby building, adding to the losses, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in April 2021.

The business owner and a manager told police that surveillance caught the entire incident on camera, and suggested Wilson, an employee, set fire to the van. Wilson was captured on the surveillance video driving the van into the parking lot, where he then placed crumpled paper or a paper towel on the dash and he is also seen tampering with the vehicle.

Wilson initially told police he smelled something “hot” on his drive from Martinsville, but he did not know what started the fire and was unfamiliar with the van because it was not his normal work van.

A Greenwood detective and fire marshal determined the fire was not accidental, according to the affidavit. Police told Wilson the evidence told a different story, the affidavit said.

“I did it,” Wilson later replied. He told police he had been struggling at work and he did not want to work that day, the affidavit said.

Defense attorneys for Wilson asked last month for consideration to reduce the arson charge to a Level 6 felony if Wilson paid full restitution for the damages at sentencing, however, prosecutors were not willing to reduce the charges. After speaking with the victim, attorneys discussed the possibility of adding a Level 5 felony theft charge as an alternative charge, since Wilson’s actions met the elements for that crime as well, said Joe Villanueva, prosecutor.

Prosecutors were able to amend the original complaint to include the additional charge.

“The resolution of the case to Theft as a Level 5 Felony with restitution being paid in full at sentencing was made with the full support and agreement of the victim in this case,” he said via email.

At sentencing, prosecutors asked that Wilson be sent to prison for his actions, saying that his payment of full restitution should only factor into the amount of jail time he should serve, not whether he should serve jail time at all. Judge Andrew Roesener ultimately sentenced Wilson to home detention followed by active probation, Villanueva said.

One day after his sentencing, on July 27, a warrant was issued for Wilson’s arrest after he violated the conditions of his probation. Field officers from Johnson County Community Corrections had gone to Wilson’s residence as part of a scheduled home detention check-in on July 27. During that visit, it has been alleged that Wilson violated the rules of his probation by consuming alcohol, Villanueva said.

Wilson was taken into custody and is held without bond at the Johnson County jail. His sentence could be revoked if the court finds that he did violate the terms of his sentence, Villanueva said.

A hearing on the matter is set for Aug. 29.