The former Napa Valley College student who set fire to the school’s gymnasium and to his coach’s apartment complex in 2015 was sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in prison during a hearing in Napa County Superior Court on Friday.
Although he was arrested more than a year after the incidents occurred, the student, Kasey Cardell Holt, 24, of Hercules, was always a suspect, according to probation reports.
Holt pleaded guilty to arson of an inhabited structure, using an explosive or destructive device and second-degree burglary before Judge Elia Ortiz in September. He also admitted to arson with aggravating factors, and three special allegations that his crimes included excessive property loss.
Charges of murder, first-degree burglary and an additional arson charge were dismissed.
Both 2015 fires have been linked to a dispute between Holt and college basketball coach Steve Ball. At one point during the dispute, Holt had even quit the team, according to court documents.
The college gym and Ball’s office were both damaged in the first fire, which occurred June 22, 2015. When firefighters entered the building, they found the gymnasium was filled with smoke and a fire was smoldering in the coach’s office, according to court documents. Two broken windows were found at the scene – one by the doors at the gym’s north entrance and another at the coach’s office, where a brick was also found.
It appeared that someone had forced entry into the office and set fire to papers on the head coach’s desk, according to court documents.
Officers at the scene located fingerprints on a portable hand sanitizer stand. The stand appeared to have been used to break a nearby trophy case.
Later that day, Holt was seen at the campus and told investigators that it was “unfortunate” that this had happened, according to the probation officer’s report.
The fire caused an estimated $591,000 in damage to the gym and caused it to be closed for two weeks for repairs.
Just a few days later, another fire broke out in Napa, this time at the condominium complex on Valley Oak Drive where Ball lived. The fire caused damage to town homes connected to Ball’s and evidence of arson was found at the scene, police said.
Holt, who was later identified as the arsonist, had thrown multiple explosive devices into one of the residence windows, according to court documents. Firefighters believed that Holt either didn’t know Ball’s exact address or was confused since the condo he threw the devices into was not the coach’s.
The condos were unoccupied at the time.
When Holt was questioned at his home in Hercules on June 30, 2015, he said that he was home all night during the fire at the college, according to court documents. During their search of the home, officers found a blue propane plumber’s torch in the garage and a pile of clothing that smelled of gasoline in the laundry room.
Officers later discovered that Holt had admitted to a friend that he started the fire at the coach’s house and had his girlfriend go with him to the Valley Oak Drive incident, according to the probation officer’s report.
Holt was arrested in El Sobrante with the assistance of the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department and booked at the Martinez Detention Facility on Sept. 30, 2016 following a 15-month investigation. He’s been held on $5 million bail since his arrest.
In a victim impact statement, one affected resident, Jamie McClaren, said that if she had been home, she may have lost her life.
“If we were home, his failed attempt at causing harm to his intended victim would have likely killed me and my best friend,” McLaren said. When she learned of the fire, she said, she didn’t even know if her cat had survived.
In addition to being sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in prison, Holt was ordered to pay $21,627.50 in restitution to McClaren, $42,921.21 to Crown Realty, and $591,104.59 to Napa Valley College, all with interest. He must also register as an arson offender.
Holt was returned to custody following Friday’s sentencing.