Man who rigged stepfather’s house to blow up gets life in prison for murder

Police said Seth Z.R. Johnson ran hose from propane tank into Miami County house, which blew up when Jack Noble lit a cigarette

TROY — A Miami County judge Tuesday sentenced a former St. Paris man to life in prison without parole eligibility for 30 years in a Feb. 12 explosion and fire at a Laura house in which his stepfather received fatal injuries.

“This was certainly a calculated killing,” Judge Jeannine Pratt told Seth Z.R. Johnson, 25, in Common Pleas Court. “It is fair to say he underwent a lot of suffering,” Pratt said of the victim, Jack Noble, 58, who died later in February.

Credit: Miami County Jail

Credit: Miami County Jail

Johnson pleaded guilty in August to aggravated murder and aggravated arson in the death.

The explosion occurred around midnight in the western Miami County village of Laura. Neighbors told investigators they heard an explosion and looked or went outside to see a vehicle driving quickly from the area of the house. At least two reported seeing Noble come from the house on fire. One said Noble told him he was getting ready for bed when he lit a cigarette, and the house blew up.

The witnesses said Noble told them the fire was started by his stepson and said they had a dispute involving attempted theft of his money, according to investigators’ reports.

The report included a detective’s visit to the fire scene with a state fire marshal’s office investigator, where they saw an air hose and a water hose that had been taped together.

One hose appeared to have been connected to a propane tank line into the garage. That hose was connected to the water hose that extended through a garage door into the house deck and then through a window. A portion of the hose was found inside the house.

Johnson told Judge Pratt before hearing the sentence that he suffered from mental health issues.

The judge said she acknowledged that Johnson suffered from mental disease but one not so severe to impede his ability to know right from wrong.

Johnson earlier was found competent to stand trial and not insane at the time of the offenses, following a court-ordered evaluation.

He also was sentenced to 11 to 16.5 years in prison for aggravated arson and to 17 months in a separate case of assault of police officers. The prison terms will be served concurrently.

If released on parole, Johnson would be required to register as both an arson and violent offender.

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