STEUBENVILLE - A man who started a fire that took the life of a woman in July was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Monday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr.
Allen L. Briggs, 24, was indicted on charges of aggravated arson and murder in connection with the July 25 fire at 324 S. Commercial St. Donna Feustel, 60, was killed in the fire.
County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin dismissed the murder charge because of the difficulty in proving the charge. She negotiated a plea agreement with defense attorney David Vukelic for Briggs to serve the maximum 11 years on the arson charge.
Briggs said he had an altercation with Feustel's husband, Frank, and that is why he lit the house on fire.
"I apologize to the court and to the family and to everyone that got hurt. It shouldn't have happened. I deserve the time I'm getting. It was wrong. I deserve to go to prison," Briggs said prior to sentencing.
Feustel's brother, Harold Richards, said Donna Feustel helped Briggs out in the past and then he took her life.
Howard Richards, another brother, said his sister was a "wonderful person."
"She would give you the shirt off her back and then scrape up a few more. I don't think she could hurt anyone. As far as helping, I've seen her go without for someone else. That is just the way she was," Howard Richards said.
He said his sister never made it out of the burning home because she was looking for him, mistakenly thinking he was at home.
City firefighters heard someone yelling for help when they arrived at the burning house. The firefighters immediately put a ladder up to a second floor window, pulled out a window air conditioner and part of the window out of the frame. Two firefighters entered the second floor while other firefighters began battling the blaze. But the firefighters search ended because of the intense flames and smoke.
Hanlin said she was told throughout the case that Donna Feustel "was a wonderful woman, teacher at Eastern Gateway Community College and loving friend."
She said it is a shame Briggs is someone Feustel helped out.
"Whatever trouble Mr. Feustel and the defendant had shouldn't have spilled over into this case and the loss of Donna,"she said.
Hanlin said the 11-year sentence is justified, adding she worked closely with the victim's family.