Police release name of arson suspect, allege he was disgruntled employee

Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Cape Girardeau firefighters attack a fire from the roof and from inside the office building at 1707 N. Mount Auburn Road just before midnight on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Firefighters found the building fully engulfed when they arrived. The building is near the intersection of North Kingshighway and Lexington Avenue. (Fred Lynch)

A disgruntled employee allegedly used a lighter and paper to start a fire Monday night that badly damaged a Cape Girardeau office building.

Mark K. Carleton, 26, of Thebes, Ill., worked for RGIS Inventory Specialists in one of the building's offices at 1707 N. Mount Auburn Road and allegedly told an emergency service responder and a police officer at the scene that he set the fire. Police say he used paper and a lighter because he was upset with a recent pay cut, according to the probable-cause statement.

The company occupies two offices in the building.

Fire marshal Brian Schaffer said two witnesses saw Carleton walking inside and around the building. The first fire crew on the scene also saw him coming out of the building, Schaffer said. Carleton was carrying a respirator mask, according to the probable-cause statement.

"He actually offered to take them in the building to show them where the fire was at," Schaffer said. "They said, 'No, thank you. Stay outside.'"

Schaffer said Carleton then went to an ambulance to be checked out and told workers he started the fire because the company he worked for had cut his pay by a few dollars per hour.

Carleton was taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. He remains hospitalized and was not in custody as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The state fire marshal came to the scene Tuesday and later interviewed Carleton, who admitted to starting the fire. According to Schaffer, Carleton said he had a key to the building and had been sleeping there.

Cape Girardeau Police responded to the fire after receiving word from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department that the fire appeared suspicious, police spokesman Darin Hickey said. Police are waiting to hear from the Cape Girardeau prosecutor's office to proceed with charges.

The fire department was called to the scene at 11:06 p.m. and advanced multiple hose lines inside the structure with little to no visibility due to a large amount of smoke. Crews extinguished the fire in about 40 minutes and remained on the scene about an hour and a half after the fire was out, fire chief Rick Ennis said.

The fire caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage, according to the state fire marshal's office.

Ennis said heavy fire damage occurred in three of the building's offices, as well as smoke damage throughout the building. According to an earlier release from the fire department, the fire compromised the integrity of the structure and the roof is sagging over the area of origin. The complex is on the northwest corner of Mount Auburn Road and North Kingshighway.

According to the building manager, Holly Overstreet, the building has seven tenants. She said the building had just recently finished being refurbished. It is owned by Kenneth Storey.

Crews from all four of the city's stations responded to the fire and mutual aid was called from Jackson and Scott City. Volunteer firefighters and crews from the East County and Gordonville fire protection districts staffed the stations.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

1707 N. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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