SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 24, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A woman whose massage business was burned in June 13 in Salt Lake City fire — which sparked a three-alarm response and destroyed a three-story building, causing $1.75 million damage to the structure alone — says the admitted arsonist in the case had been stalking her, and had recently been banned from returning as a client.
Alexander Kentish Tuita, 37, is charged in the case, and faces charges of two counts of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony; and two counts of stalking, a second-degree felony.
Tuita was questioned by Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Brodie Berg after the fire, “… and admitted that the fire on Ashton Avenue was his fault, and that he started the fire,” Tuita’s probable cause statement says.
Tuita admitted, post-Miranda and in spoken and written confessions, that he went to a gas station and filled a glass jar with gasoline, and drove his car to the Ashton Offices, ran into the parking lot, poured the gas from the gar, and lit it with a lighter, his affidavit says.
“‘I then ran back to my car without looking back,'” the police statement quotes the confession as saying.
The probable cause statement continues, saying: “Tuita also admitted that he saw the lights on the neighboring residence, but was not concerned whether people would be hurt by his actions.
After obtaining a warrant on Tuita’s West Valley City residence, police discovered a barbecue-style lighter in a suitcase in the suspect’s bedroom.
The female owner of the massage business in the Ashton Offices building, located at 1110 E. Ashton Ave., had contacted Unified Police officials on April 30 of this year. The woman, identified in court papers as “D.S.,” told officers “Tuita was calling and texting her inappropriate things outside of business hours despite D.S. asking him to stop and firing him as a client, the suspect’s June 23 probable cause statement says.
“D.S. also discovered Tuita created a fake Instagram profile of D.S. When confronted, Tuita admitted to creating the profile because he was ‘obsessed’ with D.S.,” the police statement says.
“Tuita called D.S. and and challenged D.S.’s fiancé to fight. After D.S. contacted police, Tuita again tried to schedule an appointment online, but (the woman) denied the appointment and was in the process of seeking civil stalking injunction against Tuita when the fire occurred in her place of business.”
In his confession, Tuita admitted that he had “‘crossed boundaries’ by contacting D.S.,” his probable cause statement says.
Investigators later spoke with another woman who owns a different massage business in the Ashton Offices building. That woman, identified in court papers as T.B., was granted a 2018 civil stalking injunction against Tuita, who was also her former client. That injunction is still active, the suspect’s probable cause statement notes.
Besides destroying the office building, the arson fire did damage to two nearby residences. The occupant of a single-family residence was away when the fire occurred, the police statement notes. A duplex housed a family of two upstairs and a family of four, including an infant and toddler, on the lower floor.
“The residents were alerted to the fire by strangers, and were able to safely escape,” the probable cause statement says. “However, the families’ homes are uninhabitable due to the damage caused by the fire.”
Tuita is being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail.