Man sentenced to 34 years in prison for arson spree, killing 2 dogs

A Marion County Circuit Court judge has sentenced a Scio man to 34 years in prison for a 2019 crime spree including four arsons in Salem that left two dogs dead.

Carl W. Sandberg, 38, intentionally set fire to three Salem homes and a church throughout one week beginning in late August 2019. He broke into multiple homes and stole the identities of two people, according to court documents.

The case was tried in two separate trials in May and August. Two juries in Marion County found Sandberg guilty of a total of two counts of arson, four counts of burglary, two counts of identity theft, two counts of aggravated animal abuse, possessing a firearm as a felon and theft. 

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Gardiner on Sept. 20 also sentenced Sandberg to three years of post-prison supervision, court records showed.

“His criminal activity included not only burning a church and stealing a firearm, but numerous homes and businesses throughout Marion County were burglarized, as well. In some instances, the victim’s identification, along with their credit cards, were used by Sandberg, causing multiple victims to suffer severe financial losses,” the Marion County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Two of the house fires that Sandberg set to cover up his crimes killed pets who were in the homes. Several law enforcement agencies in Marion County worked together to identify Sandberg as the suspect and arrest him, prosecutors wrote in the statement.

A Marion County Grand Jury in September 2019 indicted Sandberg on 22 total counts. He went through six attorneys “for various reasons, delaying his case each time a new attorney was appointed,” the statement said.

“Families lost their mementos, their companion animals, and the sense of security that they once had in their homes. Also, an entire church congregation was displaced from their place of worship because of this one man’s selfish decisions,” Deputy District Attorney David Wilson wrote in the statement. 

Sandberg set fire to Capital Baptist Church at 3000 Lansing Ave. N.E.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Thornicroft, who prosecuted Sandberg’s final trial, wrote in the statement, “This is something the victims have not gotten over. It still haunts them. Property can be replaced, but a pet cannot. The jurors got to see pictures of the family pets in happier times. It was very emotional for the jury, as well as the victims.” 

Many of Sandberg’s victims provided statements to the judge detailing the harm Sandberg had caused them, prosecutors said.

According to the statement, one family who lost their pet in a house fire Sandberg started wrote, “Joe was our beloved dog and had been with my husband since Joe was a puppy. When I met my husband, Joe became my best friend too. He slept in our room every night, cuddled as close as we would let him. He came on all our hiking, camping, and whitewater rafting adventures. He was our first ‘kid.’ The agony I still feel about how afraid he was; how he suffered. I feel so much guilt and regret that he was alone. I never got to say goodbye.” 

The family’s credit was also destroyed as a result of Sandberg using their identity. 

“They lived in hotels and rental homes while their home was rebuilt and their insurance premiums have increased dramatically because of all their losses. While years have passed since Sandberg’s actions, they are still feeling the effects of his crimes,” prosecutors wrote.

Sandberg wrote a letter to the judge in early September, saying he began hearing voices in his head in 2019 and “just couldn’t stop using drugs.”

“I never meant to cause so much pain and suffering,” Sandberg wrote. He also expressed regret that he did not accept a plea deal previously offered by prosecutors.

Sandberg had previously been arrested 29 times in Oregon. He has criminal convictions dating back to 2004 including forgery, burglary, theft, resisting arrest, assault, driving under the influence, tampering with a witness, attempting to elude a police officer and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

He also pleaded guilty in May to two counts of first-degree burglary in Linn County Circuit Court for incidents in September 2019 in Scio and Lacomb, court records showed. The same day as those burglaries, he set fire to a Salem home. 

Sandberg was sentenced to six years in prison for the Linn County case, which he is appealing, court records showed.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.