Selfie Leads To A Conviction For Arson in California’s King Fire

UnknownWe have previously discussed how people seem incapable of resisting selfies even at the scenes of disasters or while driving (before accidents) or during environmental tragedies but some selfie are not just inappropriate but incriminating. That is the case with Wayne Huntsman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to starting the King Fire in 2014, which burned a dozen homes and nearly 100,000 acres in the central Sierra Nevada. The key evidence was the selfie taken above at the origin of the fire.


Huntsman, 37, was also ordered to pay $60 million in restitution. Something tells me that he is likely to fall short.

wayne-allen-huntsmanThe video was recorded on Sept. 13, 2014, and showed Huntsman standing in a forested area between two separately lit blazes. On the video, Huntsman says “I’m stuck in the middle” but shows little fear.
A retired firefighter picked up Wayne Huntsman and saw Wayne Huntsman’s selfie. He recorded it on his own phone, then turned over his video over to law enforcement officials. Huntsman was arrested four days later.

That was not the extent of Huntsman’s problems with video evidence. He was also caught on surveillance video stealing liquor from a local grocery store after the fire was set.

Adding to the bizarre facts of the case is a family that is a true train wreck. Huntsman’s sister is accused of murdering two children. Tami Huntsman, 39, was living in Salinas in a small apartment with an estimated ten people. Tami Huntsman’s husband said he left the apartment when Tami began having a sexual relationship with an underage, 17-year-old boy, Gonzalo Curiel.

Tami Huntsman, who is currently pregnant, and Curiel are in their respective murder trials for torturing and murdering 3-year-old Delylah Tara and 6-year-old Shaun Tara. The two children were found dead in a storage locker some 300 miles away and showed extensive child abuse.

What a family.

18 thoughts on “Selfie Leads To A Conviction For Arson in California’s King Fire

  1. Waste not, want not. In days of old when knights were bold and digital wasn’t invented, you had to take the film to Walmart and get it developed. Somewhere along the line someone might see something bad. Now it is privacy unlimited unless you break the outer limits.

  2. What Olly wrote. What an A-hole.

    I was up there on a six-day backpacking trip in the John Muir Wilderness – just northeast of that fire – in September, 2014. There was a fire moratorium all over the high Sierra because of the drought. Not even hiker’s alcohol stoves were permitted – still aren’t, only canister stoves – and as always everyone I saw was careful, considerate, and left no trace. I surely wasn’t going to be the one to buck the rules, accidentally start a fire, and ruin one of the most pristine areas in the US. Then there’s this guy.

    Although starting a forest fire would appear to be worse than rape in terms of sentencing, I hope this guy is able to clean up in prison and for the rest of his life reflect on just what he’s done, not only to those of us who enjoy the Sierra but to the plant and animal life he condemned to death for no good reason.

    Gotta forgive, though, if we’re gonna progress.

  3. FWIW Paul, it’s not as though he was caught speeding. I don’t believe the ability to pay the fine is ever part of the “calculated” risk for an arsonist.

  4. steveg:

    I live in CA, and there are those current fire risk signs all over the place at ranger stations and park fire stations (that are generally left at yellow, at least, unless it is actually raining). Most people who live in CA are so aware of the risks of forrest fire, and outdoorsmen take great care to leave no trace.

    Ecologists estimate that the typical fire pattern for CA pre-industrialized man was about once every hundred years. Some Native American tribes set fires to increase game and availability of certain post fire plants that they foraged, but they were smart enough not to set the entire region ablaze. We not only introduced alien grasses and other invasive plant species that contribute to fire, but we also keep setting the damn things. I call fire season in CA “fire bug season”, because of all the arsonists. Native chaparral is so difficult to burn that it can take firemen hours to set a back fire in those rare spots without invasives. Those alien grasses and plants that we brought over to feed our cattle burn like kindling, and build up mulch so that when fires do start, they rage. Our natural fire pattern, theoretically, would only have started during thunderstorms, when its doubtful fires could get so out of control during the rainy season unless it was dry lightening. Because we’ve upset the natural rhythm of fires, as well as brought over alien plant species, the entire ecology of CA is changing, and with it, the landscape’s ability to retain water. Chaparral prevents almost every drop of runoff, clinging to moisture like a miser does his last coin. This used to allow our underground aquifers to recharge.

    I feel so sorry for all of those who lost their homes, as well as the destruction of so many acres of pristine wilderness. But how do you teach empathy to a criminal? Huntsman could spend the rest of his life behind bars, and still think it was funny that people lost their homes and almost died. At his current trend of criminal behavior, he likely will spend the majority of his life in jail. But will he ever get it, or does he (and possibly his sister) just have psychopathic tendencies, so the only negative to him is that he got caught? I doubt you can ever prevent recidivism unless a criminal either gains empathy for others, or at least is tired of getting thrown in jail.

    Some people just are not good to have in the community.

  5. Corporal punishment: First offense, burn the genitals off. Second offense, burn the whole body until death cometh over. Third offense, ask Saint Peter why he sent him back down here.

  6. Anybody else notice that ginormous pipeline-looking thing (what, 5-6 feet tall?) along side the road? here’s hoping it was carrying water and not petroleum products!

  7. Karen writes, “how do you teach empathy to a criminal? . . .” I don’t know, but I know it can be done.

    The first fellow you’ll see (with a gold chain and gray tank top) in the video below was sitting at the table next to mine at Hometown Buffet one bright sunny early afternoon several years ago in beautiful downtown El Cajon. He was his wife and four or so children. My client and I were chatting about the hearing we’d be appearing at in the courthouse that afternoon when he noticed the fellow, turned around, and said hello. They chatted for a bit. The fellow at the other table was receptive and pleasant but reserved.

    They’d met before at meeting at which both were presenters. My guy is a father’s advocate (a former gangbanger who turned it around, has a master’s degree in social work from SDSU, and teaches parenting skills to father’s who’ve been set adrift by the family court) and the fellow at the other table talks about getting out of the life, i.e., LH life. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the video.

    If he can do it . . ., then I feel it’s my duty to forgive him. He can’t have empathy unless I do.

  8. Dave137 and Joshzzzz very funny. Glad this maniac was caught. On an aside this site is the most difficult site I have ever posted on, or maybe not everyone is taken to the bottom of the page without knowing who you’re replying to.

    • harpertwo – you are automatically taken to the bottom of the page when you reply. That is why I generally address my comment to the person.

  9. steveg:

    Darn it, the video sounds interesting, but it would use up too much bandwidth. I’m on a dratted satellite connection.

    Catharsis has to come from within. If anyone does find the key to create a paradigm shift in the criminal mind, it would be the Nobel Peace Prize X 1,000.

    The manager of one of our local businesses used to be a gang member. His last bad decision predated the Three Strikes law briefly, or he’d never have gotten out of prison. He just got tired of it one day, plus his girlfriend (who is now his wife) said she wouldn’t see him anymore if he stayed in the life. She encouraged him, but no one could change his mindset from the outside. He had to do it. He did turn himself around. Now his nephew is getting into trouble. But like any adult trying to talk sense to a teenager, he just can’t get through.

    All I know is that there are thousands of people yearning to get out of prison, while there are thousands of people on the outside who seem hell bent on getting in. And those who do get out will just boomerang back in if they don’t jettison their criminal friends and deal with their issues. Plus, if they went to prison because they wanted to cut corners, how are they going to do now that they made finding employment a lot more difficult?

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