Man accused in Cape arson had been assaulted near apartment

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The 19-year-old accused of setting fire to a Pacific Street apartment building was a frequent visitor to the location. He was assaulted nearby on Aug. 1 and arrested for trespassing at the apartments on July 21, according to police reports.

Anthony R. Williams of 902 Jefferson Ave. was formally charged with arson Friday in connection with the fire at 401 S. Pacific St. In a probable-cause affidavit, Cape Girardeau police Cpl. Don Perry said Williams admitted setting the fire.

All the residents of the building escaped, but a dog died in the blaze.

Williams told officers he went to the apartment building to use the bathroom, Perry said in the affidavit. "Williams stated that he ignited a hand towel in the bathroom with his lighter and placed the burning hand towel in the linen closet and closed the door," Perry wrote.

Fire investigators believe he also used furniture polish that was in the bathroom to speed the flames, said Mike Morgan, Cape Girardeau fire marshal.

Residents of the building are all in temporary housing, building manager Fred Barnard said. Insurance adjusters have not issued damage estimates, he said.

Barnard called police July 21 when Williams would not leave the property. He was arrested for trespassing, but the case was dismissed.

On Aug. 1, Williams called police to report that he was assaulted at 403 S. Pacific St., Cape Girardeau police Sgt. Barry Hovis said. Williams had told some young men in a car to stop making objectionable remarks to a woman nearby, Hovis said.

Those young men left, but soon three large men came back, Hovis said. Williams reported one of the men punched him in the face and told Williams to leave his brother alone.

Folllowing his arrest, Williams was evaluated by the Community Counseling Center and taken to a mental facility for a 96-hour evaluation.

Police did not reveal the location of the mental facility on Friday.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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