Prosecutors: Suspect in Boise arson is 'persistent violator,' opening up life sentence

kterhune@idahostatesman.comOctober 3, 2013 

Steven Eugene Roberts III

— Prosecutors intend to file a sentencing enhancement against a man accused of setting fire to a Boise Bench home in September 2012.

Steven Eugene Roberts III, 42, has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary. Prosecutors say he used gasoline to ignite the house in which a Boise woman had been murdered a little more than a month earlier.

In the unrelated case, retired teacher Phyllis Ward was beaten to death in her Randolph Drive home July 23. The killer then set a fire in her bedroom, where firefighters found the badly burned body after neighbors called 911.

Police have said that Roberts is not a suspect in the first fire, nor in Ward’s slaying, and the case remains unsolved.

If convicted of both arson and burglary, Roberts would face up to 35 years in prison. But prosecutors announced at a Thursday arraignment that they plan to file a persistent violator enhancement that could allow a sentence of life in prison.

The sentencing enhancement can be filed against defendants who have been convicted of two or more felonies. Roberts was convicted of burglary and aggravated assault in 2006, and was released from prison in April 2012.

The persistent violator enhancement carries a minimum of 5 years in prison.

Roberts has been held on $1 million bond since his arrest. He left Idaho after the fire was set, but was arrested in Louisiana and returned to Ada County Aug. 29.

He is scheduled to enter a plea Oct. 17.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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