A 64-year-old man from Odessa, Texas, faces a minimum of five and up to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal arson charge in connection with a series of unexplained fires in the Permian Basin last summer, according to United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced that in Midland,
According to authorities, during the summer of 2011, Midland, Ector, Andrews, Winkler and Crane counties all experienced roadside fire starts that were unexplained by any possible accidental cause, such as a dragging chain or cigarette.
More than a dozen of these fires from April 2011 to June 2011 had one common fact: Jimmie Doyle Farris.
The fire marshals in the area became suspicious of Farris when he kept turning up at the scene of various fires. In some cases, Farris was the first to call 911 and report the fire. In other situations, ranchers and firemen personally observed Farris at the scene of the fire when they arrived, though he had no reason to be at those remote locations in the county.
In one instance, Farris received a burn injury, was transported to the hospital from the scene, and later interviewed by a local television news crew. In that interview, Farris claimed to be a Good Samaritan who traveled around the area looking for wildfires so that he could quickly notify the fire department.
Farris was placed under surveillance and on June 15, 2011, he traveled directly from his residence to the rural oilfield of south Midland County where there had been multiple unexplained fire starts in the previous two weeks and where Farris had reported fires and been observed.
Law enforcement officials observed Farris’ vehicle turn onto an oilfield lease road on the Windham Ranch, and a few minutes later the nearest officer noticed smoke in the field where Farris had just stopped. Law enforcement descended upon Farris, placed him under arrest, and extinguished the fire.. to the pumpjack about a hundred feet away.
By pleading guilty, Farris admitted responsibility for the June 15, 2011, fire as well as seven other fires in south Midland County and Ector County between May 28, 2011 and June 15, 2011. Each fire was in very close proximity to a pumpjack, tank battery or oilfield poly line.
Farris remains in federal custody pending sentencing. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
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