SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A Utah electrician accused of setting an unfinished downtown Salt Lake City apartment complex on fire in a blaze that caused $6 million in damage pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal arson charges.
Trial has been set for May 12 for Dustin Bowman, 34, of Bountiful, after he entered the plea in a federal court in Salt Lake City, court records show.
Bowman is accused of setting a blaze on Feb. 9 that damaged a 40-foot-tall building that was planned to have 61 units and cover 64,000 square feet. Flames from the nighttime fire could be seen for miles and drew hundreds of onlookers.
Nobody was inside the unfinished building, and no one was hurt.
Prosecutors say Bowman has been addicted to the drug spice and has failed to appear in court on other drug-related charges. They have said he is a danger to himself and others based on his erratic behavior.
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,” court records show.
Bowman was arrested on consecutive days in late April on drug-related charges, and then failed to show up for court hearings. He has also gone through drug rehabilitation, but continued using spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, prosecutors said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.