LINDEN, Texas — A Cass County man who set fire last year to a trailer home awarded to his wife in a divorce was sentenced to life in prison Thursday by a jury.
The jury found Larry Rolin Jurek, 64, guilty of the felony offenses of arson and theft of a firearm and of the misdemeanor offenses of criminal trespass and filing a false report. Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton said that Jurek had been ordered to leave the trailer that belonged to his former wife, Melanie Meyers, but had refused. A few days before the fire, Jurek had been cited for criminal trespass.
Jurek went to his wife's house, which is located on the same property as the trailer, at about 5:45 a.m. Feb. 7, 2019, and advised her there was smoke filling the trailer. Jurek told fire investigators and Cass County Sheriff's Office deputies that he'd awakened at 4:45 a.m., an hour before asking his former wife to call for help, and had crawled from his bed to the kitchen and escaped the residence.
Investigators noticed that Jurek did not smell of smoke and was fully dressed with pens in his shirt pocket and a hat on his head at the fire scene. They also observed that Jurek had moved his Corvette to a neighboring property. When Jurek was arrested that morning on an outstanding warrant for criminal trespass, a lighter was recovered from his pocket, Shelton said.
In the days leading up to the fire, two of Jurek's children called his exwife and asked her if Jurek had burned down the trailer "yet," Shelton said.
Shelton said Meyers testified that her divorce from Jurek was "bitter," that she was afraid of him, and that his cruelty to animals and abuse of prescription painkillers made the relationship untenable. Jurek's son testified that Jurek supplied him with narcotics beginning when he was a young teen.
Jurek was sentenced to life in prison for arson and assessed a maximum $10,000 fine. He was sentenced to a maximum two years in state jail for theft of a firearm and assessed a maximum $10,000 fine. Jurek was sentenced to one year in the county jail and assessed a $4,000 fine for criminal trespass and he received a 180-day jail sentence and a $2,000 fine for filing a false report.
Shelton praised the work of law enforcement.
"Arson cases are often difficult to prove," Shelton said. "The Cass County Sheriff's Office deputies that responded to the scene did an excellent job documenting the scene and asking the relevant questions which allowed us to prove that Larry Jurek was lying about how this fire started. The investigators also did a great job following up with search warrants and obtaining additional evidence to prove this case. We wcould not have secured a conviction without their hard work and dedication."
Cass County First Assistant District Attorney Nick Ross said the jury's verdict means an end to Jurek's mistreatment of his family.
"We are very grateful to the jury for their guilty verdicts on the arson case and the additional charges," Ross said. "We also thank them for the life sentence they assessed after hearing the full story of this defendant's long history of devious behavior; the callous neglect of his chidren years ago, killing beloved family pets and possible involvement in numerous other structure fires and getting away with it. Jurek was a con man who didn't care who he hurt or terrorized and society is much safer with him behind bars."