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story.lead_photo.caption Martin Diaz

BENTONVILLE — A Bentonville man was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $53,000 in restitution for setting three vehicles on fire more than two years ago.

Martin Diaz, 24, was sentenced late Tuesday afternoon by Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren. Diaz pleaded guilty to three counts of arson in January.

Diaz was arrested after Bentonville police investigated a car that was set on fire July 3, 2017. The fire was so intense it left scorch marks and melted the siding of the house where the 2001 Honda S200 was parked, according to the probable cause affidavit. The fire caused an estimated $30,000 in damage, according to the affidavit.

Spray-painted graffiti was found along two fences, on the front door of the home and on two other vehicles at the address, according to the affidavit.

Joey Le, the car owner, said in court that he was in Gulf Shores, Ala., when the fire happened. His father was at home and tried to put out the fire using a water hose, according to the affidavit. Le told the court about the thousands of dollars he had spent on upgrades to the car. Le told Karren a dispute about a girl was at the root of the situation.

Juan Delgado told police he believed Diaz caused the damage to Le’s vehicle. Delgado said after the sentencing that he and the girl were just friends, but Diaz tthought their relationship was more than that.

Delgado told police someone set his 2016 Kia Optima on fire June 6, 2017. A 2013 Honda owned by Thai Le, Joey’s brother, was burned outside Thai Le’s Rogers home on June 26. His home was also damaged by the fire, according to the affidavit.

Diaz confessed to setting Joey Le’s car on fire, but denied taking part in the graffiti. He said Joey Le was harassing him and the girl and he was trying to protect her.

Diaz, who took the stand Tuesday, said he set the three vehicles on fire. He expressed remorse for what he had done and apologized to Joey Le and Delgado, who were in the courtroom. A host of witnesses spoke on Diaz’s behalf including his wife, mother and sister.

Deputy Prosecutor Josh Robinson asked the court for a 30-year sentence and restitution. He called Diaz a serial arsonist.

After a break to consider the testimony, Karren returned with the sentence. He ordered Diaz to pay $30,000 in restitution to Joey Le and a little over $23,000 to Delgado.

Afterward, Delgado called the sentence “very fair.” He also said he thought Diaz’s apology was sincere.

“At the end day, what you did is what you did,” he said of Diaz.

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