Wellsville man sentenced to two years for arson

LISBON — After pointing out three people close to Ronald Knight had been unable to convince him to go for help for his drinking, Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam went against their requests for court-ordered counseling Tuesday and sentenced Knight to two years in prison.

In September 2015, Knight, 43, state Route 45, Wellsville, had burned down his own home and had a firearm despite previous felony convictions which prohibit him from having one. He had pleaded guilty in August to aggravated arson and having weapons while under a disability. An additional charge of domestic violence for allegedly throwing a brick at the car his girlfriend, Tina Paquette, was driving, pulling her to the ground by her hair and kicking her in the face will be dismissed.

Asking for a three-year sentence, Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble told Washam the photos from that night showed violence including photos where Knight burned his home to the ground. Additionally, Gamble said Knight’s previous record shows a man with a long history of violence and alcohol abuse.

“The public needs to be protected from Ronald Knight,” Gamble said. “Someone who abuses alcohol and while doing so abuses women, should never have a firearm.”

Gamble said Knight’s record includes three OVI convictions and five prior domestic violence convictions, along with two other domestic violence charges which had been dismissed. Gamble said he could only speculate as to why in the first two domestic violence cases, but Paquette, the victim of the current domestic violence charge would not tell the prosecutor’s office any information to assist with the case.

Paquette was one of the eight people who appeared in court with Knight, a group which included his mother, Barbara Cox, and his cousin, Steven Knight. All three spoke about Knight’s past drinking problems. Cox said he has been drinking since he was 13, when he would drink all night and then go to school. All three told Washam they have hoped Knight would receive help for his alcohol problem and asked the judge not to send him to prison.

Paquette, who has been with Knight six years, talked about a 2011 domestic violence case, one of the others which were dismissed. She said that was because both she and Knight had been drinking, but since then she has quit drinking and she said since then there have been fewer problems between them.

Defense attorney Colleen Hall Dailey said Paquette told her Knight had a very difficult week leading up to Sept. 23, 2015, when he had a hard time dealing with the death of someone close to him and “was drinking his grief away.”

Knight apologized to both the court and his family, stating he knows he has a problem. Washam agreed Knight has a problem but pointed out Knight obviously has rejected the idea of counseling in the past, refusing to listen to his mother, his cousin and Paquette when they have implored him to get help. He then sentenced Knight to two years in prison.

According to sheriff reports at the time, in the early hours of Sept. 23 a heavily intoxicated Knight allegedly struck Paquette in both the face and back of the head causing visible bruising. The report further claimed he also rammed the house several times with his vehicle, fired a 22-caliber rifle into the air, yelled that he had four more rounds to go and at some point proceeded to light his house on fire. The house burned down with a boat and pickup truck also destroyed.

The house was in the name of both Knight and Paquette, but she told Washam she was not seeking any restitution for monetary losses.