Unknown person burns shelter at Cape County Park South

Wednesday, August 6, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Shelter 21 burned early Wednesday, August 6, 2008, at Cape County Park South.

Another suspicious fire broke out in Cape Girardeau County early this morning.

Cape Girardeau firefighters received a call around 1 a.m. of a shelter on fire at Cape Girardeau County Park South and arrived to find the structure engulfed by the blaze, battalion chief Brian Shaffer said.

They quickly extinguished the fire, but the building sustained about $10,000 worth of damage. No one was injured.

Investigators determined the fire was intentionally set. Firefighters believe the blaze began in the women's restroom, where a scorched roll of toilet paper was found on the floor, Shaffer said.

The perpetrator could expect to be charged with knowingly burning, not arson, said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department. The term arson only applies to a building used as a dwelling or place of business.

Knowingly burning can be a misdemeanor but may be upgraded to a felony because the damage to the pavilion was so extensive, Hovis said.

The blaze is the latest in a string of suspicious fires in and near Cape Girardeau.

Since April 2005, 19 suspicious fires have occurred within Cape Girardeau city limits.

In April of this year, a fire at 203 Pacific St. claimed the life of 42-year-old George E. Robinson, a tenant in the building.

The Cape Girardeau County-Bollinger County Major Case Squad spent four days investigating the blaze, but no arrests were made, making it a rare unsolved homicide for the case squad.

In addition, two portable toilets were set ablaze this spring. The fires are believed to be suspicious.

Hovis declined to comment on whether any new leads had cropped up in the arson investigations or whether Wednesday's fire may have been connected to any of the other suspicious fires.

Anyone with information concerning any of the fires may contact CrimeStoppers at 332-0500 or the state arson hot line at 800-392-7766. A reward is available for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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