Crime

Couple didn’t start every arson fire in Yosemite Lakes Park, appellate court rules

A Cal Fire plane drops retardant to help extinguish a 76-acre wild fire off North Dome Drive in Yosemite Lakes Park near Coarsegold.
A Cal Fire plane drops retardant to help extinguish a 76-acre wild fire off North Dome Drive in Yosemite Lakes Park near Coarsegold. Sierra Star staff photo

A Yosemite Lakes Park couple who was convicted of setting a string of arson fires that terrorized their neighbors in the Madera County foothills in the summer of 2013 apparently didn’t set all of the fires.

In May 2015, Kenneth Allen Jackson was sentenced in Madera County Superior Court to 30 years and eight months in prison after being convicted of 21 counts of arson, as well as conspiracy to commit arson, battery on a peace officer and resisting arrest.

His wife, Alice Waterman, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison after being convicted of six counts of arson and conspiracy to commit arson.

On Tuesday, the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Jackson of eight of the 21 arson charges. Because of insufficient evidence, the appeal court dismissed two of Waterman’s arson convictions.

Jackson, 45, remains in prison. Waterman, 51, is no longer in prison, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s database.

In its ruling, the appellate court ordered Madera County Superior Court to correct the court record and recalculate the prison sentences for both defendants.



The arson fires, dubbed the Gold Mine Fires of 2013, took place over a 46-day span from May 11 to June 25. Ten of the fires erupted near the defendants’ home on East Revis Circle.

The defendants’ trial in Judge Dale Blea’s courtroom took five months. Jurors took five days to return a verdict.

During the trial, testimony revealed that Cal Fire investigators ruled out natural and accidental causes, allowing prosecutor Sally Moreno to argued that Jackson and Waterman started the fires.

But throughout the trial, Waterman and Jackson insisted they were innocent saying corruption and a conspiracy to frame them led to their conviction. Defense lawyers argued that juveniles could have set the fires.

“Myself and my husband are wrongly accused and are completely innocent of what we were charged with,” Waterman wrote in a letter to the Sierra Star newspaper during her court proceedings.

The 167-page appellate decision recites the evidence to each charge the defendants faced in their trial. In the ruling, Presiding Justice Herbert Levy and Justices Donald Black and M. Bruce Smith explain why there was insufficient evidence to convict Jackson of eight arson counts and why two of Waterman’s convictions were dismissed.

Smith also expressed concern as to whether the prosecution proved each arson and conspiracy convictions “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the legal standard for criminal case.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts
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