Local News

Tuesday, Mar 27 2012 04:55 PM

Arsonist receives 15 years to life for deadly Oildale fire

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jack Lewis, stepfather of victim Jayson McMurry, holds pictures outside Kern County Superior Court following the sentencing of Ismael Serna.

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  2. 2 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Ismael Serna, who set a house fire that killed a man, listens to his attorney, Henry Marquez, during Serna's sentencing Wednesday morning in Kern County Superior Court.

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  3. 3 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jack Lewis, stepfather of victim Jayson McMurry, and Carol Lewis, McMurry's mother, hold pictures outside Kern County Superior Court following the sentencing of Ismael Serna.

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  4. 4 of 4

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Ismael Serna, who set a house fire that killed Jayson McMurry, stands with his attorney, Henry Marquez, as they listen to Carol Lewis, McMurry's mother. She spoke to the court before Judge Charles R. Brehmer imposed sentence Wednesday in Kern County Superior Court.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The children of Jayson McMurry still have nightmares where their father is on fire.

One of them said she wishes she could be with her daddy in heaven, said McMurry's mother, Carol Lewis.

"I'd like you to look at this face," Lewis said as she held a picture of her son in court Tuesday morning. "This is the person you murdered."

She addressed Ismael Serna, the man who started the blaze that took her son's life. Serna, 20, showed no emotion as Lewis talked about the pain her family has gone through since the May 2010 fire.

Lewis said she hopes Serna sees her son's face and hears his screams every time he closes his eyes.

Moments after she finished, Kern County Superior Court Judge Charles R. Brehmer sentenced Serna to 15 years to life in prison.

Serna tried to withdraw his plea of no contest to second-degree murder, but Brehmer said Serna had ample time to make a decision regarding his plea before entering it and denied the motion. In return for the plea, which Serna made on Sept. 14, charges of first-degree murder and arson causing great bodily injury were dismissed.

Prosecutor Art Norris said afterward he's relieved the case is over as it took nearly two years to arrive at a resolution.

Serna was represented in court Tuesday by Henry Marquez, and had previously been represented by Charles Soria. Neither attorney could be reached for comment.

McMurry died on May 20, 2010 after Serna set fire to an Oildale house he said he thought was deserted. He doused the porch with gasoline and lit it with a blue lighter, according to Kern County sheriff's reports filed in the case.

Serna just wanted to set fire to something, the reports say.

Deputies initially arrested another man, but released him after the man wore a recording device to talk to Serna in jail, the reports say. Serna, 18 at the time, admitted setting the fire at 1003 Wistaria St.

Serna said that after he started the fire he heard someone yelling inside, the reports say.

A neighbor, Kevin Yeske, ran to alert the occupants of adjacent homes. Yeske then heard yelling from inside the house, which was quickly filling up with smoke.

Yeske opened the rear door and yelled to the person to follow his voice. McMurry never made it.

He was found dead from smoke inhalation next to a mattress in a front bedroom, according to the reports.

Outside the courthouse Tuesday, Jack Lewis cried as he talked about the special bond he shared with his stepson. He held a picture of McMurry's three young children: Destiney, Alexcis and Andrew.

Carol Lewis said the family was willing to "take what we could get" as far as prison time for Serna. But she said it's not justice.

Real justice, she said, would be if Serna suffered a similar death.

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