Police: Murray arson suspect told officers he ‘had to light his apartment on fire’

Photos: Murray City Fire Department

MURRAY, Utah, July 1, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A suspect taken into custody after an apartment complex burned early Thursday reportedly told questioning officers at the scene, “he had to light his apartment on fire because he did not know what else to do,” according to a statement filed by Murray police.

The fire, called in at about 2:30 a.m., displaced an estimated 50 people and caused structural damage of at least $500,000 to the Stillwater Apartment complex.

A probable cause statement says Forrest Xavier Wilkinson, 27, has been booked into jail on a charge of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, in connection with a fire he reportedly started on the third floor of his building.

“A witness to the initiation of the fire advised that he observed a male, later identified as Forrest Wilkinson, on the third story balcony of an apartment,” the affidavit says.

“Forrest reportedly told the male, ‘There’s about to be a fire,’ and laughed,” the statement says. “The witness stated that he soon saw the male running down the stairs, yelling ‘fire.’ The witness then saw the apartment engulfed in flames.”

Police contacted Wilkinson, who had remained at the scene.

“He began making excited utterances stating that he had to tell the truth and that he was being followed by police, so he had to light his apartment on fire, because he did not know what else to do.

“He then stated that he sprayed lighter fluid all over his apartment and lit it on fire with a piece of paper.”

A suspect is in custody, charged with arson, after an apartment complex fire on July 1, 2021. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Monico Garza/SLCScanner

An accelerant-detection K-9 was brought to the scene and to the police station, according to Joseph Mittelman, Murray City Fire assistant chief.

“The K-9 indicated positive for accelerant on both shoes the that the suspect was wearing,” the probable cause statement says. “The apartment building sustained a complete loss to a substantial section of the building.”

The filing officer suggested Wilkinson be held without bail because of “substantial evidence to support the charge, and through clear and convincing evidence that (he) would constitute a substantial danger to any another individual or to the community, or is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court if released on bail.” The statement also noted that Wilkinson’s criminal history includes assault.

A judge ruled that Wilkinson will be held without bail.

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