NewsCrime Watch


3 men sentenced for destructive arson fire that swept through Montana community

Blaze destroyed nearly a dozen homes
Posted at 1:00 PM, Mar 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 09:55:54-04

GREAT FALLS — Three men who admitted being responsible for a fire that swept through a community destroying nearly a dozen homes have been sentenced.

Brandon Cordell Bennett, Jr., Jevin James Mclean, and Galvinn Coates Munson were sentenced Friday in Cascade County District Court for the Dec. 1, 2021 fire that left a swath of destruction in the Gibson Flats community. The three previously admitted to charges related to the fire.

The fire destroyed 11 homes, 11 garages, and numerous outbuildings and cars in the community that adjoins the southeast side of Great Falls.

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said the fact that no lives were lost was a "complete miracle."

Brandon Cordell Bennett,, Jr. 18; Jevin James Mclean, 19; and Galvinn Coates Munson, 19
Brandon Cordell Bennett,, Jr; Jevin James Mclean; Galvinn Coates Munson

    The sentencing for Munson, Bennet, and Mclean were as follows:

    Munson: 108 years total to the Montana State Prison with a 20-year parole restriction.
    Count 1, Arson, 20 years to the Montana State Prison (MSP), not parole eligible for first 20 years.

    • Criminal endangerment counts: 2 years on each of the 44 counts, consecutive with no time suspended = 88 years consecutive for each count.
    • Credit for time served is 458 days (for jail time served to date).

    Bennett: 11 years total to the Montana State Prison with all time suspended = 11 years of probation total
    Count 1, negligent arson

    • 10 years to the Montana State Prison (MSP), all suspended (10 years of probation)
    • 400 hours community service,
    • serve 180 days at pre-release,
    • Get a chemical dependency evaluation and follow all recommendations.

    Count 2, tampering with evidence:
    1 year to MSP, all suspended, consecutive,

    • 180 days jail at CCDC,
    • 168 days credit for time served
    • all standard probation conditions

    Count 1, negligent arson
    10 years to MSP all suspended (10 years of probation),

    • 400 hours community service,
    • 180 days at the pre-release,  
    • Credit for time served 63 days,
    • All standard probation conditions.

    The three were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,760,172.

    Before sentencing, people who lost their homes and property were given a chance to address the three and explain how devastating the fire was.

    While some were forgiving, there was some animosity by a few people who spoke. However, they all came to the conclusion that they were ready to move on.

    The three men apologized for their actions.

    During the sentencing, it was revealed that MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as ecstasy or molly, was used while the men were smoking marijuana and shooting fireworks at each other.

    It was agreed by all of the Gibson Flats residents in the courtroom that the defendants should pay restitution.

    Several of the residents said after the sentencing they were happy the case was over and appreciative that they don't have to re-live what happened by going through a trial. 

    RELATED: Arson charges filed against 3 men for fire near Great Falls that destroyed homes