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May 26, 2022

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Man sentenced to life prison in three-strikes case after setting victim on fire

Rick “Left Handed Wolf” Stone was found guilty of attempted murder, arson in November

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

A transient man was sentenced Thursday to the mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole after a judge found his recent attempted murder and arson convictions counted as a third-strike offense.

The Clark County Superior Court jury returned the guilty verdicts in November against Rick “Left Handed Wolf” Stone, 44, after four days of trial.

He was previously convicted of first-degree arson and second-degree kidnapping, which the prosecution said were both strike, or “most serious” offenses.

However, defense attorney Michele Michalek argued that because the line on the plea form for the kidnapping conviction stating it was a strike offense was crossed out, it shouldn’t be considered a strike for this sentencing.

Judge David Gregerson agreed with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Toby Krauel that the kidnapping conviction is still a strike offense in Washington, regardless of whether Stone was informed of that at the time of his plea.

Shortly after 10 p.m. July 2, 2020, Vancouver police and firefighters responded to a vehicle fire at the St. Johns Mini Mart, 2901 St. Johns Blvd. Upon arrival, a man, identified as Mitchel Kedalo, 63, was found suffering from burns on the left side of his body. He was taken to a burn center in Oregon for treatment, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Police obtained surveillance footage from the mini-mart that showed a man wearing a yellow or green neon-colored jacket, pouring suspected gasoline both on Kedalo, who was seated in his car, and the car and then igniting it. Kedalo got out of the car, but the fire spread. Engulfed in flames, he ran inside the mini-mart where customers helped extinguish him, the affidavit says.

Officers searched the area for the assailant and found the jacket discarded in the road near East 30th and Y streets. The jacket smelled of gasoline and had a company logo on it. Investigators later learned it had been stolen from someone’s work pickup, court records state.

Further investigation found that Kedalo had gotten into a fight with a man and two women about a half-hour before the fire outside the mini-mart. Authorities said they believe the man was Stone and one of the women was his girlfriend. The three left, but Stone returned wearing the neon jacket and carrying what appeared to be a bag spilling liquid, the affidavit says.

Kedalo told investigators the fight started after he asked the trio for a cigarette, and the man threatened him, according to court records. In September 2020, investigators received an anonymous tip that the arson suspect was Stone. The tipster said they learned Stone was angry with Kedalo because he believed he was “hitting on” his girlfriend, the affidavit states.

DNA analysis on the jacket came back as a match to a Rick Kelly, one of Stone’s apparent aliases, and his girlfriend, court records state.

During Thursday’s hearing, Kedalo called the crime a “total misunderstanding.” He said he’d been praying that Stone would only be sentenced to six months in prison.

When it was Stone’s turn to address the court, he said, “Let’s get this over with. I’ve got more important things to do.”

When ordering the life sentence, Gregerson said he doesn’t think he or the jury will ever forget the images shown during trial of Kedalo on fire.

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