Edmonton

Accused Edmonton arsonist plans to plead guilty Wednesday

A 31-year-old man accused of torching a south Edmonton condo complex in a $6-million fire two years ago says he will plead guilty Wednesday to one count of arson.

'They're going to drop 23 charges and I'm going to plead guilty to one ... Arson'

Arson destroyed the Windermere condo complex in March 2014 (Courtesy: Jason Cruse)

A 31-year-old man accused of torching a south Edmonton condo complex in a $6-million fire two years ago says he will plead guilty Wednesday to one count of arson.

Eric Gould faces 24 charges in connection with the March 2014 fire that destroyed the Windermere condominiums, a complex still under construction.

The charges include arson, conspiracy to commit arson, theft, fraud, housebreaking and possession of incendiary material. 

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Gould told CBC News "the Crown has a really weak case," adding, "they're going to drop 23 charges and I'm going to plead guilty to one ... arson."

Gould's company did framing on the Windermere project. He employed his former brother-in-law, Jeremy Thibert, to help with the construction.

In September 2015, Thibert pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy to commit arson. He was sentenced to two years in jail and one year of probation. 

In a joint submission made by the Crown and defence, it was alleged Gould knew there were deficiencies in the framing work he'd done on the complex. So he allegedly hatched a plan to burn it down and cover up the shoddy work. 

Thibert said he was bullied and threatened by Gould into starting the fire.

Jeremy Thibert was sentenced to two years after pleading guilty to arson and conspiracy to commit arson. (Facebook)

In a statement of defence later filed in a civil suit, Thibert said "Mr. Gould held Thibert's paycheque until he agreed to commit this crime. [He] bullied and coerced Thibert in doing so for weeks. It got to the point of threats made to hurt Thibert's sister."

Thibert said Gould offered him $6,000 to start the fire. 

In the middle of the night, Thibert said he and Gould drove to the construction site. Thibert poured a Gatorade bottle full of gasoline on several tubes of highly flammable glue on the second and third floors, then used his lighter to start the fire. 

The blaze caused $6 million in damages, including $100,000 to surrounding homes and equipment. No one was hurt.

Cove Properties launched a $7.1-million civil suit against Gould and Thibert in August 2015. It called the conduct of the two men "outrageous and reprehensible." The lawsuit has not been settled. 

Gould launched new company right after fire

In January 2015, Gould said he was free on bail and started a new construction company with his wife. On a Facebook site he wrote, "I am very proud to be launching this new company!"

Gould said Pro-Built Framing & Construction Inc. is now "doing really well" with 14 employees.   

Hundreds of photos are posted on the company's Facebook site of work done by Pro-Built. 

The site brags, "We have been building and renovating homes, commercial buildings in Edmonton and throughout Alberta since 2007."

There is no mention of the Windermere condo complex.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.

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