Cape office complex arson suspect has extensive criminal history

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
An office building at 1707 N. Mt. Auburn Rd. in Cape Girardeau was severely damaged in a late-night fire that broke out just before midnight on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

The man charged with burning a Cape Girardeau office complex to the point of condemnation has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for burglary, theft and property damage in Missouri and Illinois.

Mark K. Carleton, 26, is charged with second-degree arson after he allegedly used paper and a lighter to start a fire Nov. 21 that caused more than $500,000 worth of damage to an office complex at 1707 N. Mount Auburn Road. He appeared in court Monday and waived his formal arraignment. Carleton will be in court again Dec. 15.

Seven businesses occupied the complex. According to the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, heavy fire damage occurred in three of the building's offices, as well as smoke damage throughout the building. The fire also compromised the integrity of the structure and caused the roof to sag over the fire's area of origin.

Carleton worked for RGIS Inventory Services, which occupied two of the building's offices. He was on the scene when fire crews arrived and offered to take them in the building to show them where the fire was, said Cape Girardeau fire marshal Brian Schaffer.

He was hospitalized with smoke inhalation and was released into the custody of the Cape Girardeau Police Department on Friday. He is currently in Cape Girardeau County Jail on $100,000 bond.

According to a probable-cause statement, Carleton was carrying a respirator mask and told an emergency service responder and a police officer at the scene that he set the fire because he was upset with a recent pay cut.

Public defender Chris Davis found Carleton to be indigent and in need of a public defender, according to court documents. Carleton represented himself in court on Monday and was in the custody of a Cape Girardeau County jailer. He applied for a public defender Monday.

This is not the first time Carleton has run into trouble with Cape Girardeau authorities. In March 2005, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stealing and spent 30 days behind bars. In August 2005, he spent 30 days in jail for failing to appear in court, and in 2007, he received three years in prison for forgery, according to

Casenet.

Before his Cape Girardeau arrests, Carleton pleaded guilty to burglary in Alexander County, Ill., and was sentenced to seven months incarceration in 2003. In 2006, he pleaded guilty in Alexander County to burglary, theft and knowingly damaging property charges.

If convicted of second-degree arson, Carleton faces up to seven years in prison.

The office complex was condemned Nov. 22, said Tim Morgan, the city's inspection services director. The condemnation begins a process that includes a hearing on the property's fate, Morgan

said.

"The owner must decide if they want to refurbish or demolish the building," Morgan said.

The city will notify the owner and schedule a hearing, said Cape Girardeau housing assistance coordinator Steve Williams. Once the owner is notified, it will have 30 days to schedule the hearing.

The building's owner, Storey Management Group, is waiting to hear from insurance adjusters before deciding what to do with the complex. Adjusters assessed the damage Nov. 23 but have not gotten back with the company, building manager Hollie Overstreet said.

"It's too early to tell," Overstreet said. "We would like to rebuild but need to see how much damage there is."

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

1707 N. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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