56-year-old pleads guilty to setting parents’ St. Paul home on fire, leaving them inside

A 56-year-old man entered a guilty plea Wednesday for first-degree arson in connection with setting his parents’ home in St. Paul on fire and leaving them inside.

In exchange for his guilty plea, John Joseph Swenson is expected to receive a stayed sentence and probation, according to court documents. He was also granted conditional release into a treatment facility before his sentencing on Jan. 3.

As previously reported, a fire near the intersection of Birmingham Street and Idaho Avenue East was reported around 10 a.m. on Nov. 14, 2022. The first officer to arrive on scene saw an elderly man outside the home and then crawled through smoke to rescue an elderly woman from the fire. Fire crews then extinguished the fire.

RELATED: Charges: Man set St. Paul home on fire, left parents inside

A mail carrier told police that he saw one of the elderly couple’s sons walking away from the home before seeing smoke and flames, according to a criminal complaint. A neighbor also reported seeing the son walking away from the home.

According to court documents, authorities were familiar with the address due to Swenson previously setting fires at the home. Swenson was arrested shortly after as a suspect in the fire and allegedly told the arresting officer to “just take him to prison” and he’d “live the rest of his life there.”

Surveillance video from a nearby home showed Swenson around 9 a.m. yelling and hitting the garage door of his parents’ home with a pipe, according to court documents. He is then seen around 9:47 a.m. walking away from the home just before smoke and flames become visible.

Swenson told police that he was at his parents’ home but left to go for a walk. He declined to say anything else.