Man found guilty of killing woman, setting car on fire

Posted at 2:03 PM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 16:57:23-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –  A man was found guilty Friday of killing a woman and setting her and her car on fire along I-96.

Donald Spice was found guilty of first-degree murder and mutilation of a dead body in the November 2015 death of Lori Vargas.

Thursday Spice testified in his own defense stating he and Vargas were arguing last November about finances among other things, including a $1,700 phone bill. He said Vargas had a knife in her hand, swung at him, then he hit her in the head with a hammer.

The prosecution argued Spice killed Vargas with a hammer in her sleep. They pointed out the fact Spice took out a life insurance policy on Vargas, seven weeks before her death, which had a pay-out of $200,000 in the event of her death; he listed himself as the beneficiary.

FOX 17 spoke with many extended family members including the father of her children, Dan Arnold, and their family, and one of their daughters, Dana Arnold who were relieved by the guilty verdicts.

“I will never get over the loss of my mother but [the guilty verdicts are] helping,” said Dana Arnold. “I won’t have to think every day, ‘oh, when is this going to happen? It won’t affect me at night anymore. And finally, my sister can also have peace as well.”

Vargas’ sister-in-law Jennifer Arnold pleads with everyone to pay special attention to any red flags in relationships, wishing they would have took note of signs pointing to domestic violence earlier.

“Pay attention,” said Jennifer Arnold and their family. “Pay attention. You know when we look back there are signs that all of us ignored, you know things that we should have picked up as red flags. And it wasn’t until after we lost Lori that we were like, why didn’t we see this?”

Vargas’ body was found by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department at about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 9 in a burned out car along eastbound I-96 in Wright Township.

Spice was found walking on Ironwood Drive and arrested shortly after.

According to Grand Rapids Police, Spice told the Ottawa County detectives that he had gotten into an argument with Vargas in the 1100 block of Emerald Avenue NE.  He allegedly confessed to killing the woman and driving the body out to I-96 and setting the car on fire.

Spice is scheduled to be sentenced at 2:30 p.m. July 13.  He faces life in prison.