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Charges filed in 2007 jail fire

Thursday, August 14, 2008

(Photo)
Nicholas C. Pacheco
ALTON -- Oregon County Prosecuting Attorney Fred O'Neill has filed two charges against one of the inmates who was involved the fire at the Oregon County Courthouse Sept. 6, 2007.

According to a probable cause statement from O'Neill's office, Nicholas C. Pacheco, 19, has been charged with a class A felony of arson in the first degree and class A felony of murder in the second degree.

The statement said that Pacheco knowingly damaged a building consisting of a jail located in the Oregon County Courthouse, and he did so by starting a fire at a time when persons were housed in the jail and recklessly placed those persons in danger of death or physical serious injury.

As a result of this fire, Jesse Johnson, 17, of Mammoth Spring died from smoke inhalation.

(Photo)
Jesse Johnson
A fire investigator, Michael Johnson, with the Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office in Jefferson City said in a probable cause affidavit, that information from another inmate in the jail at the time of the fire, Robert Huff, 22, of Thayer, said Pacheco was the only one in the cell where the fire started. He said Pacheco had also taken some pieces of paper into that cell shortly before the fire occurred.

Information from another inmate who was in the jail at the time of the fire, Cody Davis, 19, of Alton, also said Pacheco was the only one in the cell where the fire started at the time of the fire.

Information from Officer Kou Yang of the Green County, Missouri Sheriff's Department, who was guarding Huff while he was at St. John's Hospital in Springfield being treated for injuries as a result of the fire, said Huff had written a note and given it to Yang. In the note Huff stated, "The Mexican kid did it, he started the fire. I don't want to be housed with the Mexican kid." Officer Yang said this was a voluntary statement and Huff had not been questioned by him or anyone else.

Johnson said in his statement that Pacheco piled papers, books, clothing and a mattress together and ignited them with an unknown source.

Johnson, who died in the fire, was in the jail awaiting a court appearance for armed criminal action, assault and burglary charges.

Davis was serving a 60-day sentence on a conviction for theft of property. Huff was awaiting bail of $4,900 on charges of second degree burglary and theft of property. Pacheco was being held on a fugitive warrant from the state of Illinois.



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