Arson suspect arrested in N. Carolina

September 17, 2014

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HESPERIA — The suspect in an arson at the Hesperia House restaurant has been arrested in North Carolina, and local law enforcement officials are waiting for an Oct. 1 hearing to see whether or not he is going to waive extradition.

“He has to come to Oceana County to be arraigned on the charges here,” Oceana County Undersheriff Tim Priese said.

The sheriff’s office issued a two-count felony warrant at the end of August for a 32-year-old man, who is the co-owner of the Hesperia House, for allegedly committing arson to the restaurant last April.

The restaurant, which is still standing, has not been open for business since the alleged arson occurred, the night of April 29, said OCSO Lt. Craig Mast. Hesperia House is located at 205 S. Division St. in the village limits.

Investigators immediately became suspicious of the blaze, because there were two separate fires in a hallway area inside the building, Mast said. The alleged arson was investigated by Deputy Jeff Brown, a fire expert for the Oceana County Fire Investigation Team, as well as experts for the restaurant’s insurance company, Argo Insurance Co., Mast said. Argo hired a cause and origin fire inspector, Ron Taylor of Nedervelde Inc., and Elias Khoriaty, a certified electrical engineer in fire analysis for Nedervelde, to assist in the investigation, Mast said.

“It was deemed that both fires were not naturally occurring,” Mast said. “There was no link of connection between the two fires.” The fires were deemed an arson, May 9, the lieutenant said. There was a time difference of a few hours between the two fires, Mast said.

Restaurant staff and management were interviewed during the investigation, he said.

The suspect is being charged with third-degree arson, which is a 10-year felony, and preparing to burn real property, a five-year felony.

The restaurant sustained “considerable smoke damage,” Mast said, and no injuries occurred from the blaze.

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