Arson suspect has memory lapse

Arson suspect has memory lapse

28 November 2006

published by

USA — An arson suspect said he is notresponsible for several fires, but his own statements to fire investigators maysuggest otherwise.

Patrick Ryan Courtney, 29, is suspected of starting several wildland firesconnected to a fatal plane crash that killed Fire Battalion Chief Rob Stone andpilot George “Sandy” Willett.

The Tulare man pleaded not guilty totwo counts of murder and three counts of arson last week at the Tulare CountyPre-Trial Facility.

Courtney is alleged to have started the “Camp Fire,” “Jaguar Fire,”“Sock Fire” and “Mountain Fire,” discovered between Sept. 3 and 6.

An investigation of the fires was conducted and a report of findings wassubmitted by California Department of Forestry Chief Mike Davidson and U.S.Forest Service Special Agent Marion Matthews.

CDF received the a report of the Camp Fire on the evening of Sept. 3.

The following morning Courtney walked into Mountain Home Conservation Camp,telling fire personnel he had gotten lost and spent the night in the canyon.

Courtney said he lit a signal fire and other fires to keep animals at bay,according to the CDF report.

During the interview with fire investigators, Courtney reportedly said anargument with his girlfriend, Mindy Moore, prompted him to leave the road andhead into the canyon. He then followed a creek until it became dark.

Investigators later located a tree with “Mindy + Pat” carved into the trunk.

To keep warm, Courtney reportedly said he built a main fire and other“satellite fires.” He also reportedly told investigators he carved his nameinto a tree and lit another fire at a later time to dry his socks.

Courtney did not admit to igniting additional fires in the canyon, but accordingto the report, he didn’t deny it either.

Instead, Courtney reportedly told investigators he did not remember settingother fires.

Stone and Willett were flying over the Mountain Fire when their plane crashedSept. 6, killing both men.

Prosecutors charged Courtney with murder in the deaths of Willett and Stonethough he did not directly cause their deaths. Murder charges can be appliedwhen a person commits a crime that leads to the death of another person.

In addition to the aforementioned charges, Courtney faces special charges fromtwo serious felonies or “strikes” on his record. Those strikes are fromattempted murder and burglary convictions. He was sentenced to nine years inprison in 1996 and paroled in 2002, according to the California Department ofCorrections.

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