Man, 38, convicted of multiple crimes, faces 17 years
By Anne Sullivan, The News-Herald
DETROIT — Lori Doster and her 14-year-old daughter, Vianca, were in U.S. District Court on Tuesday as one of the men convicted of setting fire to their house in Taylor was sentenced.
Wayland Mullins, 38, of Taylor was sentenced to 17 years and three months in prison.
A jury found Mullins guilty April 20 of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the Reginald Doster family, interfering with the family's housing rights, using fire to commit a felony and conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation. It also found that his actions were racially motivated.
The Dosters are black and Mullins is white.
Two other men, both white, also have been convicted in the crime.
Michael Richardson, 35, of Taylor was convicted of the same four charges and will be sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court.
Ricky Cotton, 35, also of Taylor, was convicted by a jury of lying to federal investigators and a federal grand jury for obstructing justice. He also pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mullins and Richardson and others to violate the Dosters' housing rights.
Cotton was sentenced in April to 6 1/2 years in prison and is serving time in the Federal Corrections Institution in Milan.
Reginald and Lori Doster had lived in Taylor for nine years before they bought a house in the 5900 block of Ziegler in 2002. It was the first house the couple had purchased. They were fixing up the house and preparing to move in when the fire was set.
During the trial, prosecutors proved that Mullins and several of his neighbors discussed burning down the house the Dosters had recently purchased.
After the discussion, Mullins broke a bedroom window in the family's house, poured gasoline in the window and set the fire July 28.
The fire had burned itself out and was discovered when the family returned to the house to continue working on it.
The fire was contained to one bedroom, but soot and smoke covered the freshly painted walls.
"I feel very good today," Lori Doster said Wednesday.
"By me being the person I am, (and hearing) 17 years, I felt bad. But being in court, and him still denying it, I have no empathy for him. He's the one who struck the match or lit the lighter.
"Vianca, she was happy. She was 9 at the time; (now) she's 14. She felt bad (about) 17 years, but it's like she said, 'He showed no remorse.'"
Although Mullins apologized in court, Doster said she didn't think it was a sincere apology.
"He said, 'I'm sorry, but I didn't firebomb the house,'" Doster said.
"I believe he was sorry he got caught. I didn't believe his apology, not at all."
Doster said her husband and son were working and couldn't be in court when Mullins was sentenced.
She also plans to be there when Richardson is sentenced.
"I lived in Taylor 12 years," Doster said. "Vianca grew up in Taylor. When we moved to that area of Taylor, up to Van Born and Ziegler, everything changed."
U.S. attorneys said the three men told "nothing but lies," the neighborhood hung together and it was a three-year conspiracy to run out the Doster family.
"Only that neighborhood knows everyone involved," Doster said. "I don't feel safe in Taylor."
In addition to the house being set on fire, people would drive over their front lawn, damaging it. Dead cats and dead dogs were thrown in the yard. And, drains were pulled up in the street near where the family parked cars.
After three years, they moved out. She would not say where the family is living.
"We're not going to live in fear, but we will be cautious," Doster said. "When I ride through Taylor I get an eerie feeling. I can't say I hate Taylor. The city has beautiful trees and houses, but (officials) know there are problems they need to address.
"I want a message to get out to everyone that you can't do this to people and get away with it. The judge sent a message that you can't violate anyone's rights because of their color, and if you do, you're going to get punished.
"I think (Mullins) really thought he was going to get away with it."
Doster saw Mullins' and his family in court, crying at the sentencing. But, she said if one of them had discouraged him from setting the fire, it never would have happened and they wouldn't have been sitting in court as he was sentenced.
Although it took nearly five years to convict the men who terrorized her family and forced them out of their house, Doster said she's happy with the law enforcement agencies that handled the case and she believes justice has been served.
"I call them my dream team — the FBI, U.S. attorneys," she said. "It took 4 1/2 years, but they did it.
"The FBI said it could take, a month, two years, 10 years, no matter how long it took, they were going to get the people that caused it, and they did."
Although she no longer lives in Taylor, Doster said she hopes the city will address the issue so it doesn't happen to another family.