A 46-year-old Gardnerville Ranchos man, who admitted he doused himself and a woman with gasoline that he threatened to ignite with a lighter, was ordered Tuesday to complete a diversion program or face up to four years in prison.
District Judge Tod Young deferred sentencing for Richard Vonderscher who pleaded guilty to arson in the fourth degree, a felony.
Vonderscher, who has an extensive criminal history, changed his plea to guilty on Feb. 14, a few days before he was set for trial.
As terms of the diversion, Young told Vonderscher he couldn’t smoke, therefore he wouldn’t require a cigarette lighter.
He must attend counseling once a week during probation and abstain from alcohol and controlled substances that are not prescribed to him. Vonderscher was also ordered to report to his counselor and physician the severity of his heroin addiction. Young said Vonderscher was forbidden to use any opiate-based painkillers unless there was no alternative. He is ineligible for Western Nevada Regional Drug Court because he is taking pain medication for an undisclosed condition.
According to reports, deputies found Vonderscher walking along Highway 395 near Airport Road carrying a milk jug partially filled with gasoline at 7:18 p.m. on June 21, 2013.
When he was told to drop the jug, Vonderscher allegedly poured the contents of the jug down the front of his shirt. He then threw the empty jug against a fence. Deputies detained him despite the gasoline, and handcuffed him.
Vonderscher told deputies that his car ran out of gas near Indian Hills.
He claimed that he got a ride from a woman he knew while walking to get gasoline and after they picked up the gasoline, she drove south past his car, saying he was too intoxicated to drive home.
He said the woman slammed on the brakes, spilling the gasoline and then pushed him out of the vehicle at 35 mph. He admitted Tuesday he had been lying about the details.
He said the gas spilled when he pulled the emergency brake in an effort to get her to stop the car.
“I hit the windshield, and the gas went everywhere,” Vonderscher. “There was a cigarette lighter on the seat. I threatened to light the lighter if she didn’t stop the car.”
Prosecutor Erik Levin pointed out that Vonderscher now has 11 convictions, including Tuesday’s case. He was opposed to a diversion, and recommended Young place Vonderscher on probation.
The defendant’s attorney, Kris Brown, said her client wanted to keep a felony off his record, which was incentive for him to follow the terms of his diversion.
The victim attended the sentencing, but did not speak. Levin said she did not want Vonderscher incarcerated, but to get the help he needs.
“This denial has taken me a long way,” Vonderscher said. “It’s taken me 46 years to realize I am a drug addict and an alcoholic. I put (the victim’s) life at risk. I want to put this behind me and ask that you give me a chance.”
“I regard this as a violent crime,” Young said. “You should not walk out of here thinking this is a one-year deal. It can last at least three years.”
Vonderscher is subject to search and seizure for drugs and alcohol. Young put Vonderscher in charge of making sure monthly reports reach the court.
Vonderscher faced up to four years in Nevada state prison and a $5,000 fine.