A Cortez man with a troubled history with fire has been charged with three counts of arson in connection to the Family Dollar fire in May.
Court records reveal James Linn Alexander, 20, of 13618 U.S. Highway 491 was charged last month with first-degree arson and two counts of fourth-degree arson as the result of a May 14 blaze at the discount store. He’s being held on a $25,000 bond.
Reports show Alexander also was suspected of starting a house fire on South Maple Street in 2008. It’s unknown if he ever was charged in the case. Alexander also was previously barred from a family member’s residence for starting fires, according to reports.
An arrest warrant for Alexander was issued Sept. 9, charging him with a Class 3 felony of first-degree arson for setting the blaze, a Class 4 felony of fourth-degree arson for placing a victim in danger and a Class 2 misdemeanor of fourth-degree arson for causing more than $100 in damages.
According to an agent from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, an unknown accelerant was used at four separate points of origin in connection to the May 14 inferno. An employee of the store told police the fire was not accidental.
According to police reports, Alexander was hired as an assistant manager at the Family Dollar store about a week before the blaze. Reports also revealed that at least two other fires occurred inside the store within days of the May 14 blaze.
Reports show a 911 call was made for a fire underneath the register at the store on May 7, but the call was canceled once a store employee extinguished the flames with a broom. The second fire reportedly occurred May 13 inside a trash can at the store, but no emergency calls were made once an employee doused the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Family Dollar is part of the Cortez Plaza shopping center on East Main Street, behind First National Bank. The interior of the building sustained heavy smoke damage and some structural integrity was lost as a result of the May 14 fire.
About 30 local and area firefighters responded to battle the blaze. No injuries were reported.
During questioning, once police told Alexander that the facts and evidence clearly indicated that he was involved with starting the blaze, reports show the defendant became nervous and his complexion turned pale.
Asked why law enforcement failed to notify the public that an arrest had been made in the case, a Cortez police spokesperson said detectives chose not to make a formal announcement.