2 plead not guilty in Tacoma day care arson case

Staff writerOctober 30, 2013 

Two men have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with a fire at a Tacoma church day care last year, and police still are looking for others who prosecutors say were involved.

Jonathan Hazel, 26, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to first-degree arson, second-degree conspiracy to commit arson and second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission.

Mitchell Knapp-Patterson, 21, pleaded not guilty Friday to first-degree arson, first-degree attempted arson, conspiracy to commit second-degree arson, theft of a motor vehicle, and conspiracy to commit theft of a motor vehicle.

Both are in prison for unrelated crimes: Hazel for failing to register as a sex offender and Knapp-Patterson for third-degree assault and attempted vehicle theft, among other crimes. 

Bail for the new charges was set at $400,000 for Hazel and $500,000 for Knapp-Patterson.

They are two of six people charged in the May 2012 incident at the Church of God in Christ center in which an unmanned van crashed into the building after a rock was put on the van’s gas pedal. The vehicle had been stolen the night before, and less than a day later, someone set three fires in the day care, investigators said.

No one was hurt.

Some of the defendants have told investigators the incidents were part of an insurance scam, but authorities have declined to elaborate on the scam or who would benefit.

Prosecutors said Hazel and his then-girlfriend, Darcy Chase, drove Knapp-Patterson to get gas in a failed attempt to torch the stolen van, prosecutors said. Chase, 30, pleaded not guilty Oct. 18 to first-degree arson and second-degree conspiracy to commit arson, and was released on her own recognizance.

Two others have been charged in the incident.

Kenneth Baines Jr., 24, has yet to be arraigned; he’s in prison for kidnapping, robbery and witness intimidation. Alvin Lee, 26, and Eugene Henderson, 27, have bench warrants out for their arrests.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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