Townsend Justice Center (Gregory Hirst)

CASPER, Wyo. — An Evansville resident received a 2.5- to 4-year prison sentence in Natrona County District Court on Wednesday for a conviction of third-degree arson.

Justice Zerfas, 21, was picked up by Casper police last year after staff at the Quality Inn in Casper reported that he was trying to burn down the hotel.

According to the affidavit, Zerfas entered the hotel on Feb. 5, 2022, and caused a scene, screaming at the desk clerk, “I’m going to torch this place because you’re racist.”

Zerfas reportedly told police he went to the hotel to look for someone who owed him money, and the clerk wouldn’t give him a room number. He then reportedly held a match to the wall in the vestibule area of the entryway.

Zerfas’s public defender, Marty Scott, acknowledged Wednesday that the charge was serious given the hotel was occupied, but noted that there was little chance Zerfas’s efforts would have led to a full-blown fire.

The police report notes that no accelerant was used and the fire had burned itself out rather quickly.

“His plan wasn’t the greatest, but a lot of people could have gotten seriously injured,” prosecutor Kevin Taheri said.

Taheri added that it was “a tough call” to ask the court to impose prison time, but a series of new charges in other counties since last year had factored into the recommendation.

Scott said that substance abuse and mental health concerns all played a role in Zerfas’s behavior, and said the probation officer’s pre-sentence report stated his client was fit for community supervision.

Zerfas was sentenced by Judge Catherine Wilking to 2.5–4 years in prison. Zerfas will get credit for 344 days served.

He is also ordered to pay $500 in restitution to the Quality Inn.