Ill. Man Charged with Arson for Garage Fire

The suspect's vehicle was captured on surveillance video.


Jan. 22--DECATUR -- Arturo Alvarez, a 41-year-old Heyworth resident, has been arrested on a preliminary felony charge of arson for allegedly lighting his ex-girlfriend's garage on fire early New Year's Eve morning.

Alvarez, whose vehicle was captured on surveillance video at the scene, reportedly told police that he set the fire with a towel drenched in gasoline because the victim "pushed him over the edge that night."

At 2:35 a.m. Dec. 31, Decatur firefighters were sent to a fire in the 1700 block of East Wood Street. When they arrived, they found a detached garage on fire, which contained a 2005 Nissan Murano and 2011 Chevy Cruz. The building and vehicles were all damaged by the blaze.

The department's fire inspector determined that the fire was intentionally set. The point of origin was the garage's north outside wall.

One of the residents of the Wood Street house told the fire inspector that there was a surveillance camera outside, which recorded an image of a vehicle in the alley next to the garage shortly before the fire. She said the vehicle resembled Alvarez's silver-colored BMW SUV.

A Decatur police officer investigating the incident saw on the surveillance tape a BMW SUV circling the vicinity of the house several times before it appears in the alley next to the garage, said an affidavit by Decatur police detective Adam Jahraus.

"The SUV pulls out of the alley and travels on 17th Street until it disappears from sight," the statement said. "Less than five minutes after the SUV exits the alley, the first visible signs of the detached garage being on fire can be seen."

During a police interview "Arturo would admit that he had set the fire to the detached garage," Jahraus wrote in his statement.

Alvarez said he soaked a towel with gasoline, set it at the base of the outside garage wall, lit it on fire and drove away. He then abandoned his BMW on a country road near Heyworth, which is just south of Bloomington, and rode his bicycle home.

The Heyworth police chief told Jahraus that Alvarez reported his BMW stolen about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 31. When it was later found, it was not damaged, and Alvarez still had its only set of keys.

When Alvarez was asked about the stolen vehicle report, he told police "he reported his BMW stolen to take suspicion away from himself as a suspect in the arson."

Estimate of the damage to the garage was about $6,000.

Alvarez was booked into the Macon County Jail on Monday morning, and then released after posting $3,000 cash bail. He is due in circuit court Feb. 21 for his arraignment.

?hfreeman@herald-review.com|(217)421-6985

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