Puyallup man charged with arson for allegedly retaliating for theft

A Puyallup man who blamed his neighbors for the theft of his laptop retaliated by starting a fire next to their garage, Pierce County prosecutors allege.

Kenneth Balduff admitted he was “pretty heated” when someone broke into his mobile home Monday and stole his laptop but said he didn’t remember lighting the fire, according to court documents.

Balduff, 61, pleaded not guilty to second-degree arson and possessing a dangerous weapon. He was ordered jailed in lieu of $40,000 bail.

Firefighters called Monday to the 2800 block of Ninth Street Southwest found a burning wood pile beside the garage. The blaze damaged the building but did not injure anyone.

Witnesses told police they saw Balduff running from the scene with a can of gasoline and fleeing in his truck.

The landlord of the damaged property said she’d spoken with Balduff on the telephone shortly before the fire and he’d demanded to know what she was going to do about the laptop theft.

Balduff blamed his neighbors for getting his computer stolen because of alleged criminal activity on the property, police Capt. Scott Engle said. Officers recently served a search warrant at the neighbors’ home and arrested at least one man who lived there, Engle said.

When Balduff came to the police station Tuesday to discuss the theft, officers questioned him about the arson and arrested him. No gasoline can was found in his truck but police said it reeked of gas.

“The defendant said he went to dinner about 6:45 p.m. and then he has no recollection of what happened after that until he woke up in the cab of his truck” near Snoqualmie Pass, charging papers state.

The dangerous weapon charge stems from a pair of fighting knuckles with sharp points that allegedly were found in Balduff’s back pocket.