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Paynesville man gets 18 years for 2019 arson that killed daughter

A Paynesville man was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder in the July 2019 death of his daughter in an arson fire he started. John Newport agreed to an aggravated sentence after a court ordered last year that the prosecution could argue that the crime had been committed with particular cruelty.

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John Sean Newport

ST. CLOUD — A Paynesville, Minn., man whose daughter died in a mobile home fire in 2019 was sentenced Friday, July 2, to 18 years for starting the fire that killed her.

Jamey Newport died July 23, 2019, in a fire at her home in Paynesville. She was 22.

Her father, John Sean Newport, 48, dressed in a white T-shirt and shackles, appeared Friday before Minnesota Seventh District Judge Shan C Wang in a Stearns County courtroom and was given an 18-year sentence for second-degree unintentional murder, in accordance with a prior plea agreement.

There were no victim impact statements. When asked if he had anything to say, Newport said he had nothing further and to "get it done and over with."

"There are no winners here. Your actions led to the death of your daughter," Wang said before handing down the 216-month sentence and $882 in restitution and fines.

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Jamey Newport / Source - Facebook

Newport will serve two-thirds of that sentence, or 144 months, in a Minnesota correctional facility and will then have 72 months of supervised probation once released.

Newport also was credited with 710 days served since he has been in the Stearns County Jail on $2 million bail since the fire.

Newport pleaded guilty in May to unintentionally causing his daughter’s death while committing a felony. In the plea agreement, he accepted an aggravated sentence of 18 years in prison.

The aggravated sentence comes after a court ruling that the crime was committed with particular cruelty.

According to court records, John Newport had been living with Jamey Newport in the mobile home, and she had been paying the bills. The afternoon of the fire, he asked his daughter to drive him to a hardware store, and when she refused, he began slamming things around the house and arguing with her.

He decided to set the home on fire after she said she was going to move out, according to court records.

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Newport poured gasoline in the home and on her beloved kittens in front of her. Friends told law enforcement that Jamey Newport had been depressed, and she used the four kittens as comfort during her depression. On Facebook, she called them her “babies.”

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Jamey Newport's kittens are shown here in a photo she posted on her Facebook page the day she died. Facebook photo

The court order says John Newport intentionally set the kittens on fire in front of her, knowing his daughter’s dependence on the pets for comfort and that it would be expected to “inflict severe emotional psychological distress.”

Jamey Newport’s dependence on the kittens and her concern for their welfare compromised her ability to flee the fire, according to the court order.

In a recorded 911 call, Jamey Newport told the operator that her father had poured gasoline in the house and on her kittens. She said she had gasoline on herself, too.

In the recording, she can be heard saying her father was starting the fire. She screamed that her kittens were on fire, and she had to save them.

A Paynesville Police Department officer arrived at about the same time the phone line went dead, according to court records. He could hear Jamey Newport screaming and tried to enter the home using a fire extinguisher, but he was unable to reach her through the flames.

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She was found in the home’s bathtub with the shower running, but efforts to revive her were unsuccessful. She died of smoke inhalation.

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The scene where Jamey Newport died after a mobile home fire in July 2019 is cordoned off in Paynesville in this West Central Tribune file photo. John Sean Newport, 48, of Paynesville, was sentenced Friday, July 2, 2021, to 18 years for second-degree unintentional murder in the death of his daughter in an arson fire he started. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

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The scene where Jamey Newport died after a mobile home fire in July 2019 is cordoned off in Paynesville in this West Central Tribune file photo. John Sean Newport, 48, of Paynesville, was sentenced Friday, July 2, 2021, to 18 years for second-degree unintentional murder in the death of his daughter in an arson fire he started. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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