Crime

He did 23 years for the deaths of 4 Seattle firefighters. Now the arsonist lives in Prosser and wants a new name

Martin Pang is taken into court to be sentenced after he pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter in 1998 for the deaths of four firefighters in a Seattle warehouse fire that he started.
Martin Pang is taken into court to be sentenced after he pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter in 1998 for the deaths of four firefighters in a Seattle warehouse fire that he started. Peter Haley

An arsonist who served 23 years for the deaths of four Seattle firefighters is now living in Prosser and hoping to get a new name.

Martin Pang walked out of Walla Walla’s Washington State Penitentiary a free man on Sept. 27.

And instead of returning to King County, where he lived when he set fire to his parents’ warehouse in 1995, Pang settled in Benton County.

It’s not clear if he has family or a job in Prosser, or even why he chose the county seat.

But in a petition for name change filed in Benton County District Court, the 62-year-old Hong Kong native and United States citizen says he wants to shed Martin Shaw Pang for the name Mark Sun Lee.

He simply states the request is for “cultural, religious and protective reasons.”

MartinPang.jpg
Martin Pang, 62, pictured in August 2018. Washington Department of Corrections

A hearing on the petition is scheduled Nov. 14 before Judge Steve Osborne.

Pang — who will celebrate his 63rd birthday two days before the hearing — also wants the judge to seal the record.

Pang owes about $3 million in restitution, court costs and interest, The Seattle Times has reported.

He was 42 when he pleaded guilty in King County Superior Court to four counts of first-degree manslaughter.

The January 1995 blaze leveled the frozen-food warehouse in the Chinatown-International District.

Seattle Fire lieutenants Walter Kilgore and Gregory Shoemaker and firefighters Randall Terlicker and James Brown died after the first floor collapsed and they were thrown into the burning basement. It was the worst loss of life in the Seattle Fire Department’s history.

Pang started the fire to collect an insurance payout. He then fled to Brazil as he quickly became the lead suspect. The South American country refused to extradite him unless King County prosecutors dropped felony murder charges.

A King County judge ordered him to serve a total of 35 years in prison based on the state’s sentencing guidelines at the time. He was released after 23 years because time off for good behavior was calculated at a higher rate.

And because of the law at the time, he does not have to be supervised by the state Department of Corrections since his release from prison.

ARCHIVE.WA SCOW PANG.A0302.JPG
Martin Pang pictured in the mid-1990s. AP

Two years later, first-degree manslaughter was re-categorized as a serious violent offense in Washington, bringing with it longer sentencing ranges, less time off for good behavior and mandatory probation after release.

And because the judge did not order community supervision, there is no legal requirement for the state Department of Corrections to be notified of Pang’s new address after his release, said department spokesman Jeremy S. Barclay.

Barclay said the thought is, “You paid your time according to the statute and the judicial conviction at the time, so you don’t owe the justice system anything that would keep you tethered to that justice system.”

However, Pang remains tied to King County Superior Court until he pays his outstanding $3 million debt.

In 2017, he failed in an attempt before the state Court of Appeals to get relief from the legal fees, The Seattle Times reported.

Pang also came under investigation by Seattle police in 2013 while in prison for allegedly engineering an elaborate identify-fraud scheme to steal the identities of firefighters, police officers and witnesses from his criminal case.

He also planned to siphon millions of dollars from the Tulalip Resort Casino, all to set himself up for a “life of luxury” after prison, according to The Seattle Times.

It led to his only infraction while incarcerated for a loss of 76 days from his good-time credit.

People who petition for a name change in Washington state must tell the court they are not doing it for fraudulent purposes and that it won’t be detrimental to the interests of another person.

That includes trying to evade creditors or other financial obligations.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer
  Comments