Brendan Sokaluk, 39, appeared on Tuesday in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in Australia via video link from prison. He is facing 191 charges related to one of the fires that burned across Victoria on February 7, including 10 counts of arson causing death, intentionally causing a bushfire, criminal damage, recklessly causing injury, and possessing child pornography.
The Magistrate set a pretrial hearing date for May 31, where 610 witnesses are expected to testify over six weeks. The hearing will determine if there is enough evidence to begin a jury trial.
Numerous fires burned in Victoria on February 7, Black Saturday, killing 173 people and destroying more than 2,000 homes. Mr. Sokaluk is charged with setting one of the fires which killed 10 people.
Wildfire Today reported on Thursday that the brother-in-law of Raymond Lee Oyler who was convicted and sentenced to death for starting dozens of fires, including the 2006 Esperanza fire that killed five US Forest Service firefighters, was wanted by law enforcement for allegedly tampering with the jury during Oyler’s trial.The fugitive, Christopher Vaughn Hillman, has turned himself in. Earlier this month he fled out the back of his home when law enforcement officers went to the house with a search warrant. Since then his location had not been known.
This is one of those holyshit stories. Christopher Vaugn Hillman, the brother-in-law of Raymond Lee Oyler who was convicted and sentenced to death for starting dozens of fires, including the 2006 Esperanza fire that killed five US Forest Service firefighters, is wanted by law enforcement for tampering with the jury during Oyler’s trial.
Riverside County prosecutors in southern California have filed charges against Hillman for allegedly putting fliers of newspaper articles on the windows of juror’s cars. The fliers described evidence that the judge had ruled to be excluded from the trial. During the February trial, three jurors found them during a noon recess and sheriff’s deputies located four more.
The fliers had information about a US Forest Service employee who had been investigated for starting fires in the same general area as the Esperanza fire. Law enforcement officers found Hillman’s fingerprints on the fliers and this month went to his house with a search warrant, but he fled when they arrived and has not been seen since.
An arrest warrant has been issued and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his arrest. Anyone with information on the man’s whereabouts is urged to call the district attorney’s office at (951) 955-5400.
The firefighters that died were from San Bernardino National Forest Engine 57. They were Capt. Mark Allen Loutzenhiser, 43, and crew members Pablo Cerda, 24, Jason Robert McKay, 27, Jess Edward McLean, 27, and Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20.
Police in north Idaho arrest boy after arson spree
From The Olympian:
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – A 15-year-old boy suspected of setting 18 fires in the last month has been arrested in northern Idaho.
Coeur d’Alene police say the boy is being investigated in connection with 15 recent wildland fires and then three more fires near Skyway Elementary School. The fires were quickly extinguished.
Coeur d’Alene Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Lauper said it was critical to make an arrest due to an increased chance of fires this weekend because of fireworks, low humidity, high temperatures and no expected rain.
“We’re going to be busy enough with other emergencies,” Lauper told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “Those extra fires were putting a drain on our resources.”
After eight fires were set in the last week, officials asked for the public’s help, which Lauper said was a difficult decision because it could have made it harder to catch whoever was setting the fires.
“We had to make a calculated risk analysis,” Lauper said. “Once we go public, we have to have the resources to put into that investigation because it could either shut him down or make him accelerate his activities.”
Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Bill Tilson said tips from area resident’s led to the boy’s arrest late Thursday.
“The patrol division received some tips and we followed up on those tips,” he said. “Thanks go to the citizens of the city.”
Lauper said the boy, who is being held in a detention facility and whose name has not been released, has told officials details about the fires. He said the boy and his parents are cooperating with officials.
“He told us things that were absolutely consistent and confidential to the investigation,” Lauper said.
The Columbus-Dispatch has a story about how the Ohio Fire Academy and fire departments in the state attempt to prevent firefighter-arson. They point out that there are no national statistics about the number of firefighters charged with arson, but the U.S. Fire Administration in a 2003 report published an FBI-created profile of the typical firefighter-arsonist:
Are white males, ages 17-25.
Had one or both parents missing from home during childhood or, if the family was intact, had an emotional atmosphere that was mixed and unstable.
Have a cold, distant, hostile or aggressive relationship with natural father.
Have either a poor marriage or live at home with their parents.
Lack stable interpersonal relationships.
Didn’t adjust well to other jobs.
Are interested in fire service for excitement, not for the sake of public service.
Might have experienced alcoholism, childhood hyperactivity, homosexuality, depression, borderline personality disorder or suicidal tendencies.
Might have an average to higher intelligence, but poor academic performance.
For more information, see the article we wrote on September 2, 2008.