News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Wildfire arson suspect sued for $440K

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

A Lyons man arrested for allegedly burning down his neighbor’s home after it survived the Beachie Creek Fire in 2020 has now been sued by the victims as his criminal case remains pending.

William “Dale” Hopson was sued Aug. 30 in Marion County Circuit Court by Connie and Herman Frieden, as well as property owner Ajay Property Management, LLC, for $437,974 after their house was destroyed Sept. 9, 2020.

Just two days before, the Beachie Creek Fire tore through the area as part of the Santiam Fire Complex, which burned 400,000 acres, damaged 1,500 structures and killed five people. Firefighters confirmed Sept. 9 that both Herman’s and the Friedens’ properties were unscathed, however around 3:45 p.m. that day wildland fire crews saw the Friedens’ home in flames and both the house and an outbuilding were totally destroyed.

Witnesses including Hopson’s brother, a volunteer firefighter with the Mill City Fire Department, placed Hopson at the scene shortly before the fire. 

Hopson allegedly told police he was only there to check for hot spots, but multiple witnesses including Hopson confirmed an ongoing feud between himself and the Friedens and Hopson was arrested for allegedly using the wildfire as an opportunity to settle their rivalry.

He is charged with first-degree arson and first-degree burglary and faces up to 20 years in prison on his highest count. He was scheduled to stand trial Sept. 28, but the matter was continued Aug. 22 after an expert witness for the defense became unavailable.

The Aug. 30 lawsuit shed further light on the scale of destruction at the Friedens’ house and the efforts allegedly undertaken by Hopson.

The suit said 35 trees on the property were either cut down, girdled or otherwise damaged, allegedly by Hopson, at a cost of $17,786. 

The suit also estimated the damage to the buildings at $283,515 and the property within the house at $101,101.

The matter has been assigned to Judge Thomas Hart and the plaintiffs are represented by Salem attorney Robert Custis. As of press time, Hopson had yet to be served with notice of the suit and a future court date had yet to be scheduled.

Hopson remains released on his own recognizance pending the outcome of his criminal proceedings.

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