Man gets stayed sentence, probation after pleading guilty to arson of parents’ home

A man was sentenced Wednesday for setting his parents’ St. Paul home on fire and then leaving them inside.

John Joseph Swenson, 56, received a four-year sentence that will be stayed for the duration of his five-year probation. He was also sentenced to 362 days but had credit for 362 days already served.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Swenson entered the guilty plea for first-degree arson of a dwelling last November.

The fire happened on Nov. 14, 2022, around 10 a.m. near the intersection of Idaho Avenue East and Birmingham Street.

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.