Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stuttgart Man Charged with Arson in Courthouse Annex Fire

LITTLE ROCK - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Grover Crossland, Resident Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) announced the unsealing of a two-count Indictment on Monday, February 9, 2015, charging Donald Aaron, age 45 of Stuttgart, with arson in the destruction of the Stuttgart Courthouse Annex, which housed the Arkansas County Sheriff’s office, among numerous other government agencies.

The ATF took a lead role in investigating a fire on September 23, 2014, that took place in the Stuttgart Courthouse Annex Building on 312 South College. This building housed the Arkansas County Sheriff’s Office, offices of the Arkansas State Police, the 911 coordinator, the Office of Emergency Management, the Arkansas County Tax Assessor and County Tax Collector, the County Judge and the Emergency Operations Center. The ATF investigation determined the fire to be incendiary, or intentionally set.

“This fire essentially destroyed millions of tax-payer dollars and put the lives of people in the area at risk when the 911 operations were not operational,” stated Thyer. “Thankfully, 911 operations were able to be rerouted and the services were able to relocate and continue serving the citizens of the Stuttgart area. I’m grateful for the diligent work of the ATF investigators who were able to determine, not only the cause, but also the alleged perpetrator of this crime.”

For a period of time 911 operations were interrupted. Ultimately, the building had to be demolished with estimated damage of $2.5-$3 million. During suppression and clean-up efforts following the fire, a Stuttgart city employee was injured in a construction equipment accident.

Aaron was arrested Monday morning in Stuttgart and appeared before United States Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray Monday afternoon. He was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending trial. If convicted, Aaron will face a statutory minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment on each count.

The investigation was conducted by the ATF, with assistance from several law enforcement agencies including the Stuttgart Police Department, Stuttgart Fire Department, Arkansas County Sheriff’s Office, Arkansas County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Arkansas County Office of Emergency Management, and Arkansas Community Correction. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Chris Givens.

An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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