The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Competency exam set for arson suspect


September 17, 2020

Beaver Creek resident Matthew Johnson, 39, was arrested on September 2 and charged with attempted arson in the second degree.

On August 29, the Skamokawa Fire Department, the Skamokawa ambulance, deputies, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded to a brush fire near Vista Park. According to a deputy’s report, there were four locations where fires had been extinguished, including an area, 30x30 feet, which drew near the shop building at Vista Park. A DNR investigator said that he believed that accelerant had been used to start the fire.

Video footage showed Johnson exiting the shop with a can of diesel within minutes of the fire being reported.

According to the officer's statement, when questioned, Johnson admitted that he had previously been in trouble for starting fires, including a time when he had burned a pile of horse manure “because he was a dumb kid, got bored and thought it was cool.” He also admitted to starting a fire with coals in the Vista Park area a few years ago.

This time he had lit the fire using a match but denied using diesel, he said.

Johnson’s bail was set at $5,000, and he is currently being held at Wahkiakum County Jail.

On September 3, Counsel Corey Bradbury entered a plea of not guilty at Johnson’s arraignment in Superior Court. Bradbury requested an order for competency during an exparte hearing on September 10.

On Monday, it was decided that hearings will be set over until competency is determined, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow said.


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