Hesperia village councilman is suspect in restaurant arson case

September 18, 2014

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HESPERIA — Hesperia Village Councilman David Pates, a co-owner of the Hesperia House restaurant, is the suspect in an arson case at the restaurant.

Village President Jim Smith confirmed that Pates, 32, remains on the council and stated that the council cannot legally take any action to have him removed from his position with the village. “That is up to the governor (of Michigan),” Smith said.

According to the Oceana County Directory, Pates was appointed last November to a partial term on the council that expires in November of 2016, and he will be up for re-election on the upcoming November ballot.

Pates was recently 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 Oceana County Sheriff’s Office issued a two-count felony warrant for Pates at the end of August 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.

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

Pates 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.

Smith said Pates was not in attendance at last Monday night’s council meeting but did not have any attendance records immediately available for previous meetings.

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