A fire which destroyed a St. David residence in the early hours of Feb. 26 was deliberately set while an elderly man was asleep inside, according to public records obtained from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).
Det. J.C. Hoke has ruled the 4 a.m. fire on West Fenn Lane as an arson, a conclusion supported by CCSO’s own certified arson investigator and substantiated by a specially trained K9 fire detection team from the Gilbert Fire Department.
According to Hoke’s report, the elderly father of the homeowner was awakened by several “popping” sounds, then saw flames under his window. There was smoke throughout the home, he said, and two distinct fires appeared to be about 10 feet apart.
The man fell while trying to get out of the burning house, resulting in a non-serious head injury.
A female renter lived in a room on the east end of the house, but the area could not be immediately checked due to the intensity of the fire. It was later discovered that the woman and her dogs were not present at the time of the fire, which had fully engulfed her room.
Hoke’s report noted the woman previously dated the suspect, who is identified as a Cochise County man. Arizona Daily Independent is not publishing the man’s name as he has not been arrested nor charged in connection to the arson.
The report also notes the initial responders to the 911 call noticed a dark, burning “line” running along the side of a dirt street toward the home’s driveway. There was also a fuel-like smell and a splatter-pattern scorch marks on the exterior of the home and the entrance door to the woman’s room was burned through.
The former girlfriend said she had recently filed a report with the Benson Police Department about her car tires being slashed.
At the time of the arson, the suspect was on pretrial release after posting a $50,000 bond in an October 2020 aggravated assault case involving a shooting in the Pearce-Sunsites area. An attorney informed Hoke that the suspect had been advised to not speak with the detective.
Court records show the suspect has a criminal history that includes two aggravated assault convictions for which he spent time in prison as well as a weapons misconduct conviction.