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Gulacy sentenced to 15 years for arson

Convicted in two arson cases, Gulacy will spend 13.5 years in prison and two more in jail


Forest Grove resident Henry Louis Gulacy was sentenced Friday, July 8, to 13.5 years in prison and an additional 24 months in the Washington County jail after being convicted May 27 of arson and burglary, plus two unrelated misdemeanors.COURTESY PHOTO - Gulacy was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison for two cases of arson in Forest Grove.

The bulk of the time stems from Gulacy’s first-degree arson conviction for burning the Forest Grove home of Marcus and Roberta Roberts at 2045 Hawthorne St. last August 28. Gulacy also set fire to an unoccupied building on 9th Street, which garnered a second-degree arson conviction.

Gulacy escaped 13 counts of attempted aggravated murder when jurors acquitted him on May 27 after defense attorney Bill Redden argued it was unclear whether or not Gulacy knew the Roberts family was inside the house when he lit the fire. The Robertses sustained injuries during their flight from the house and say they nearly lost their lives.

Both Marcus and Roberta addressed Washington County Circuit Court Judge Eric Butterfield during the sentencing hearing, calling not for retribution but for justice and public safety.

“I’m not much one for punishment,” said Marcus, “but for protecting the innocent.” He went on to point out that even if Gulacy didn’t know the Roberts were inside, he also couldn’t have known they weren’t.

“He didn’t check the bedrooms. He didn’t check to see if we were there,” Marcus said. “He would’ve been okay burning us. There are lots of people in Forest Grove who sleep in their houses and don’t expect to wake up to fire” — and those people need protection, he said.

“This is a rare opportunity. No one has actually died,” said Marcus. “So it’s worth taking any effort to make sure it stops here.”

After the fire, said Roberta, the Roberts family was forced from hotel to hotel — six moves in a month — while smoke inhalation and other injuries cost her weeks of work and volunteer time.

“One hundred-year-old houses are hard to rebuild,” she said. “We lost 10,000 books and Cleo, our cat. The fire consumed materials for after-school projects we run. We’ve already had disappointed kids ask us when we’ll restart the clubs.”

Furthermore, Roberta emphasized the family's less visible losses: not only a house and the material inside but peace of mind, safety and a home.

“Henry made the callous decision to stay and watch even after he heard our screams,” she said. “He’s a danger to us and to society, and I’ll never feel safe with Henry on the streets.”

Gulacy himself did not speak, but Redden summarized a letter Gulacy composed.

“He’s aware people suffered,” said Redden, “and he’s very sorry, and grateful no lives were lost.” Gulacy also, according to Redden, expressed the desire to use his prison time to “work towards things.”

Butterfield noted that he felt constrained by the law in sentencing Gulacy and would have preferred a harsher penalty. Gulacy’s sentence includes $828,000 in restitution and three years’ post-incarceration state supervision, but Butterfield said that if he could, he'd put Gulacy under supervision for the rest of his life.