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Woman who helped torch truck near plant 'very remorseful'

36-year-old didn't set the fire, but she purchased the gas used to ignite the February blaze
The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo.

Melanie Mackan was "compromised by drug use" that fueled her actions on the February night a truck was torched near the steel plant, a judge heard last week.

The burning vehicle was spotted on Portage Lane, beside the railway tracks, shortly before 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 7.

Mackan was linked to the fire by security cameras in the area, and information city police received from Algoma Steel, prosecutor Gary Knox said.

The 36-year-old didn't set the fire, but she purchased the gasoline for a man accused of igniting the blaze.

She pleaded guilty to arson causing damage and possession of stolen property over $5,000 (a Ford F-150 truck).

Mackan also was convicted of breaching an undertaking four days later by failing to notify police about a change in her address.

Information Algoma relayed to the cops involved two vehicles in a parking lot at 2:26 a.m.

A truck entered the rail area, where another vehicle was waiting, and a "fire ensued," the Crown told Ontario Court Justice Melanie Dunn.

Video from Wardlaw Fuel Gas Bar on Wellington Street West showed Mackan holding a red gas can, purchasing $5 worth of gasoline.

Mackan was identified two days later as one of the people exiting the parking lot, Knox said.

The fire stemmed from an earlier occurrence reported to the Ontario Provincial Police.

Defence lawyer Eric McCooeye described his client as "generally a nice person" who had purchased the gas for someone who had some control over her.

"She was compromised by drug abuse and what she was doing," he said.

Mackan's criminal record consists of one item: a 2011 conviction for impaired driving, he said.

"We see this from time to time, people who have not been involved in the criminal justice system fall into drugs and get involved in something like this," McCooeye told the court.

"She is very remorseful and hopes to stay away from the people she consorted with."

Mackan's guilty pleas saved a great deal of court time that would have involved a lengthy trial, McCooeye said.

There were triable issues, involving identity and willful blindness, which were "washed away by her pleas."

The Crown and defence jointly recommended a six-month sentence, plus 12 months probation. 

Mackan, who has spent four months in custody, is in a time-served position with the enhanced credit for the time she has already spent in jail, the lawyers said.

Her time in custody was difficult, McCooeye told the court, and his client wants to put it behind her.

"She has served her penance."

Knox said the probation should include counselling and no communication with two people, including another person charged in the arson incident.

"She was hanging out with a bunch of bad apples," the prosecutor said.

When Dunn imposed the time-served sentence, she noted the guilty pleas followed lengthy resolution discussions, were significant because of the triable issues and indicated remorse.

In addition to the no-contact provisions of her probation order, Mackan must take any recommended assessments and counselling, and can't possess any incendiary devices.

As well, the judge imposed a 10-year weapons prohibition and ordered her to provide a DNA sample for the national database.

About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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