Accused enters surprise guilty plea to 2022 Harwood arson

Potential jurors sent home

Nearly 100 potential jurors were sent home from the Vernon courthouse Monday morning after an unexpected guilty plea was entered by a man who was supposed to stand trial for arson.

Jury selection was to get underway at 10 a.m. for the upcoming arson trial of Lorne Paananen.

But after a long delay that kept would-be jurors waiting in the gallery of the second floor of the courthouse, the BC Prosecution Service confirms Paananen entered a surprise guilty plea to arson damaging property.

Paananen was arrested and charged after setting fire to a Harwood-area townhouse back in the summer of 2022.

He was born in 1981 and is no stranger to the court system, having made appearances on incidents that are alleged to have happened in Chilliwack, Surrey, Kamloops, Langley, Kelowna and Vernon.

A search of B.C.'s Court Services Online portal reveals dozens of charges dating back to the early 2000s.

They include use of stolen credit cards, possession of stolen property, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, assault causing bodily harm in Langley, and making or possessing explosives in Kelowna in 2019.

Paananen was on probation for that crime when the Harwood fire happened.

Along with sending all potential jurors home, Paananen’s guilty plea cancels a seven day trial that was set to start Wednesday.

A date for his sentencing is expected to be set later this afternoon.

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