Franklin Stephenson, 68, of Denison, who pleaded guilty to one count of arson and one count of assault on a peace officer, was sentenced Friday to a split sentence of 20 years in prison and 10 years deferred probation by Jude Brian Gary in the 397th state District Court.


A statement from the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office said Stephenson pleaded guilty to the charges in early October.


On January 12, Denison Police responded to a report of a suspicious person, the statement said. When the officer arrived, a neighbor reported Stephenson had been acting strange and asking questions about her teenage daughter. The neighbor simply asked the officer to talk with Stephenson because he was scaring them, and they were concerned about his state of mind.


The patrol officer located and interviewed Stephenson who denied any knowledge of being at the neighbor’s house and claimed to have been asleep all day. Because no offense had occurred, the scene was cleared. In less than three hours, Denison Police were again called the same house following a 911 call about a man burning bushes and holding a gas can. Police observed the bushes in front of the neighbor’s house were burned and gasoline was spilled nearby. When officers located Stephenson he had a strong odor of gasoline on his person and was standing near a gas can. During his arrest, matches similar to those found at the neighbor’s house were in his pocket.


While other officers were checking on inmates at the Denison Jail the following morning, Stephenson managed to push his way out of his cell door and then struck the officer with his fist several times.


The officer did not require medical attention.


Assistant District Attorney Donnie Carter who prosecuted the case said, “The citizens of Grayson County should be able to feel safe in their homes. This man violated the sanctity of the victims’ home and was punished accordingly.” District Attorney J. Brett Smith stated, “There is a thin line between making sure those with mental illness get the help and treatment they need, but at the same time ensuring the public is protected. This defendant crossed that line and left the criminal justice system with no other option.”