Man found guilty of setting fire to his Virginia Beach townhome

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After two days of testimony, a Virginia Beach judge ruled that 38-year-old Shannon Cason intentionally set a fire at his townhouse last year on Mill Creek Drive.

“I’m sad for Shannon, because I don’t think he is guilty,” defense attorney George Yates said. “It wasn’t a wrongful act. I didn’t agree with the judge’s ruling on what malice really is.”

Yates didn’t argue with facts of the case.

Cason was drunk on Oct. 30, 2018. He had a fight with his wife and she took their four children to a family member’s home. 

Cason was in the master bathroom. He said he used a lighter and Lysol can to create a blow touch. He told the court he was playing around when the flame set a T-shirt on fire.  The flames quickly spread and caused massive damage to his home.

It also damaged the units on either side.

Yates said his client’s act was careless, but not criminal.

“He did a kind of a silly stupid thing and it just snowballed and kind of got away from him,” Yates added.  “It was just a series of mistakes on top of mistakes.”

The judge told Cason he made no effort to put the fire out and left the burning home without calling 911. Even worse, he didn’t let the sleeping neighbors know there was a fire.

No one was injured in the incident.

“You’d think he should have done something different under the circumstances, but he just didn’t under the pressure of the moment,” Yates said.

Cason took the stand in his own defense and sobbed throughout his testimony.  He said he simply panicked.

“There is no client I had that had been more remorseful and more sorry for the mistake he made,” Yates said.

The defense attorney also told the court there was no reason for Cason to commit arson.

“He had no motive, he had no insurance, he had a happy marriage and he had no reason to do it,” Yates said. “He burned up his own house that his children live in.”

Cason’s conviction means he could spend years in prison. The three arson convictions carry a minimum sentence of five years each and a maximum of life in prison. Yates said it is a shame.

“Justice, I do not believe, has been done in this case,” Yates said.

Cason is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24.

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