Crime

Pierce County man held on $1 million bail for alleged arson

Justin Mohler’s anger at his girlfriend’s ex-husband got explosive last week when he set fire to a home where he believed the man lived, Pierce County prosecutors allege.

Mohler has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree arson and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Charging papers gave this account:

A neighbor in the 14600 block of 29th Avenue Court East heard loud bangs the night of Dec. 2 and looked outside. He saw a man starting a fire in the grass outside a nearby house.

The neighbor, who is a firefighter, ran next door and yelled for the people inside to get out. He then extinguished the flames before fire crews arrived.

Sheriff’s detectives identified Mohler as the suspect after speaking with the last man who owned the home, who is the ex-husband of Mohler’s girlfriend.

Officials believe Mohler didn’t realize the man had moved and set the fire because he was angry with the ex-husband because of a custody battle in which the girlfriend recently lost her children, court records show.

Detectives said Mohler admitted to starting the fire. Neighbors identified Mohler’s van and the dog left inside when the fire was set.

“The defendant claimed to have knocked on the door several times to just talk to the ex-husband and no one answered the door,” according to charging papers. “He then set the fire.”

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