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Monday, May 2, 2016

Arson, murder charges dropped

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nicholas Pacheco
First-degree arson and second-degree murder charges filed in 2008 have been dropped against a man who supposedly set fire to the Oregon County Jail in an attempt to escape, according to Oregon County Prosecuting Attorney Fred O'Neill.

Nicholas Pacheco, 20, formerly of Thayer, was involved in a fire which began around 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2007, which killed an inmate, Jesse Johnson, 17, of Mammoth Spring, Ark. According to court records, Johnson died from smoke inhalation.

At the time of the fire, Pacheco was in jail on a fugitive warrant out of Illinois.

Pacheco pled guilty May 27 in the Butler County court to an amended charge of attempting to escape, which is a class D felony.

He was sentenced to four years in the Department of Corrections. He was jailed on a $500,000 bond. The trial was held in Butler County instead of Oregon County because of a court order of a change of venue.

O'Neill said evidence against Pacheco was circumstantial and it is possible that other inmates were also involved in starting the fire.

At the time the original charges were filed, O'Neill wrote that Pacheco used papers, a mattress and other items in the cell at the Oregon County Sheriff's Department to start the fire. The sheriff's department is in the courthouse in Alton.

The smoke clouded the cells so much that Pacheco and other inmates couldn't see their way through to escape. Smoke was not the only issue the prisoners had to deal with. They were behind a locked cell door which was behind another locked door.

Other inmates in the jail at the time were Cody Davis, then 19, of Alton, and Robert Huff, then 22, of Thayer.

The jail had some smoke and fire damage. Since the fire, the courthouse has made some renovations and improved security to keep both inmates and the public safe.

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