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Electrician Blames Spice Addiction For Utah Apartment Complex Arson

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – An electrician charged with arson in a downtown Salt Lake City fire that caused $6 million in damage was using drugs daily and going through a tumultuous time of his life, prosecutors said Monday during a detention hearing.

Federal magistrate Dustin Pead decided to keep Dustin Bowman, 34, in jail, citing his addiction to the drug spice and his failure to appear in court on other drug-related charges.

Pead said he’s particularly troubled that Bowman was arrested on consecutive days in late April on drug-related charges, and then failed to show up for court hearings. He’s also gone through drug rehabilitation, but continued using spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, he said.

“He had all the incentive in the world to avoid future problems – and he was unable to do that,” Pead said.

Bowman is accused of setting a blaze on Feb. 9 that damaged the 40-foot-tall building that was planned to have 61 units and cover 64,000 square feet. Flames from nighttime blaze could be seen for miles and drew hundreds of onlookers. Nobody was inside the unfinished building, and no one was hurt.

Bowman’s attorney, Jamie Zenger of the federal public defender’s office, told the judge that Bowman understands he’ll be kept in jail because of the seriousness of the charges. Zenger said afterward that it would have been difficult to argue for his release based on the evidence against him.

Investigators honed in on Bowman as a suspect after spotting him on surveillance video at the construction site shortly before the blaze started. When first confronted by investigators, Bowman initially denied it was him, court records show.

He later acknowledged setting the fire by lighting cardboard and throwing it in a bathtub that was leaning against a wood wall, court records show. He said he only wanted to start a small fire.

Asked about his motive, he said “maybe I wanted to see the fire department.”

Zenger said she hasn’t talked with Bowman about the actual crime yet. She said he seems to be doing well, though he’s nervous about the outcome of the case. Bowman was born and raised in Utah and had worked as an electrician for several years, she said.

Bowman wore a light brown jail jumpsuit with orange sandals in court, his hands shackled.

U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor Drew Yates told the judge that Bowman is a danger to himself and others based on his erratic behavior. “This last year has been a difficult one for Mr. Bowman,” Yates said.

Bowman is scheduled to be arraigned on March 6.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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