Probable cause found in suspected arson case
The case of an Elkins man charged with arson was bound over to Randolph County Circuit Court Thursday in Randolph County Magistrate Court.
Magistrate Rob Elbon found probable cause in the case of Josue Mateo Bonilla, who was charged with first-degree arson for allegedly setting fire to a pile of his girlfriend’s clothing, with lighter fluid-covered charcoal briquettes, outside a trailer his girlfriend was renting. The burning clothing then allegedly damaged the undercarriage and side paneling of the trailer.
Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker said the event occurred on Nov. 28, 2012 at Heavner Acres, Lot 59, in Elkins.
Bonilla’s attorney, Dwight Hall, characterized his client’s situation as one that fits the bill of “stupidity” but does not cross into the territory of first-degree arson.
“Was it stupid? Yes,” Hall said, “but stupidity doesn’t (always) amount to intent for purposes of first- degree arson.”
Hall attempted to make the case that Bonilla did not build the fire under the trailer, saying no accelerant was placed underneath the structure.
Parker countered by saying the fire was cause for concern. Regardless of whether or not it was built under the trailer, he said, the fire was intentionally started.
In the end, Elbon ruled that the case should proceed to circuit court and that Bonilla’s previous bond, set at $25,000 cash only, would remain in place.
Three men were called by Parker to testify before Elbon. David Ware, the landlord who was renting the trailer to Bonilla’s girlfriend, was first called to the stand.
Ware told Parker he was made aware of an altercation between Bonilla and his girlfriend after a neighbor alerted Ware to the fire. It was this altercation, he said, that prompted Bonilla to set his girlfriend’s clothes alight.
He said he noticed damage to the undercarriage of the trailer, but he told Hall that the fire was not started underneath the trailer.
Cpl. C. D. Cross with the Elkins Police Department was called to the stand following Ware. He testified he noticed damage to the trailer’s undercarriage, and that he saw the pile of burnt clothing sitting a couple feet from the trailer.
He also told Hall that, while interviewing Bonilla, he discovered Bonilla was angry at his girlfriend, prompting the defendant’s action in starting the fire.
Patrolman B. D. Tice with the EPD, who also responded to the fire, was the final person to testify.
Tice said he spoke with Bonilla and, following their discussion, placed him in the rear of his patrol vehicle.
Tice said he spoke to Cross about the fire while on scene. He noticed black marks on the side of the trailer and said they could have been caused by flame or heat.
He also spoke about Cross’s on-scene interview with the landlord, noting the landlord said there was additional damage done to the inside walls and doors of the trailer.
Hall asked Tice about the proximity of the fire to surrounding structures.
“(Were there) no other structures within 10 feet?” he asked.
Tice responded by saying the closest structure, other than the trailer in question, was more than 70 feet away. He also noted that the clothes were only a couple feet from the trailer.
“Was there any indication that flames had been under the trailer?” Hall asked.
Tice said damage on the side and bottom of the trailer could have been caused by heat or flame, but he was not able to state the exact cause.