News

Eight years for lighting woman on fire

Surrey
Surrey's Mehgan Pronick in 2008, three years before she was lit on fire and disfigured over an argument about a bicycle. Her attacker, Danielle Merasty has been sentenced to eight years in prison for the attack.
— image credit: Leader file photo

A woman has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for lighting 26-year-old Mehgan Pronick on fire because of a dispute over a bicycle.

Early December, last year, Pronick saw that Danielle Merasty, 22, had stolen a bike. Angered at the action, Pronick took the bike back to its rightful owner.

Merasty was irate and threatened to hurt her for it.

"You burned me, I'll burn you," she threatened.

Merasty and Pronick met months earlier, in the spring of 2011. Both were crystal methamphetamine users living on the street in Whalley, according to Crown prosecutor Don Wilson.

In the following days, Merasty told other people she was going to light Pronick on fire but no one took the threats seriously, including the victim herself.

In a video shown in court of Pronick speaking to a police officer from her hospital bed, Pronick described how she and Merasty again argued about the bike on Dec. 17, 2011 by a shed behind a residence near 133 Street and 103 Avenue.

Merasty, she said, had a plastic cup containing liquid in one hand and what looked like a spray paint can in the other.

"We argued for awhile and I just kept saying 'you're not going to light me on fire.' And eventually she did," said Pronick.

Merasty threw the cup of flammable liquid – which police believe was a mixture of a paint thinner-type liquid called toluene and some sort of soap – covering Pronick from head to toe. She then lit the spray from the aerosol can so it became a torch and Pronick was engulfed in flames.

Wilson said a man sleeping in the shed came out to see Pronick on fire, screaming, "Danielle lit me on fire. Put me out. Put me out." But that proved difficult due to the water insolubility and adhesive nature of the flammable liquid used. When a blanket and hose didn't work, someone finally got a fire extinguisher. At one point, said Wilson, she begged those around her to kill her because she was in so much pain.

Pronick suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to 67 per cent of her body and was given a 50-per-cent chance of survival. She was in hospital for for about six months and so far, has had 13 surgeries but requires many more.

The maximum sentence for aggravated assault is 14 years prison. The Crown was asking for 10 to 12 years, while the defence sought five years.

On Monday morning, Merasty was sentenced to eight years and 11 weeks, with credit for time served.

~with files from Sheila Reynolds

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