Vancouver man pleads guilty to attempted murder, arson

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A Vancouver man pleaded guilty Friday to attempted murder and arson charges for dousing his ex-girlfriend with gasoline in September 2010 and setting her house ablaze.

David Michael Miller, 24, admitted to second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson, second-degree assault and harassment.

Judge Rich Melnick ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be conducted into Miller’s background and risks of reoffending before deciding the punishment.

A hearing to set sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 29.

Miller faces a sentence of between about 11 years and just over 17 years in prison. He has no criminal history.

The event began when Miller’s girlfriend told him the morning of Sept. 17, 2010, that she wanted to end their relationship and asked him to move out, Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Holmes told the judge. They were living at a home in the Sifton area with their 5-year-old son and the girlfriend’s parents.

An upset Miller then sent a string of threatening text messages to his girlfriend, Jessica Whalen, and her sister, before showing up at the home that evening, Holmes said. He was carrying a gasoline can and started pouring the flammable liquid on Whalen and throughout the house. He then set the house on fire.

“Officers reported Jessica Whalen was soaked with gasoline,” Holmes said.

Whalen ran from the house with her son, sister and mother.

As firefighters responded, they received calls that the house was engulfed in flames. Miller was found at a gas station in the 7700 block of Northeast 117th Avenue, a short drive from the house, according to court documents. Holmes said he had been severely burned.

Miller’s attorney, Jeff Barrar, told the judge that his client wanted the avoid the risk of being convicted of the stiffer first-degree attempted murder charge at trial, so he agreed to accept the guilty plea to the lesser charges.

Miller also wanted to avoid the potential of having the sentences for the more serious charges run consecutively as opposed to concurrently, or at the same time, Barrar said.

Most of the charges relate to his ex-girlfriend. However, the second-degree assault relates to Miller’s son who was in the home at the time of the fire; he had gasoline dumped on him, but wasn’t hurt.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.