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Arson suspect goes free

FRIDAY, OCT. 12, 2007

The man arrested in connection with this summer’s Whitley Fuel fire was released from jail Thursday evening because no charges had been filed against him.

Timothy L. Jacobs, 19, was arrested Monday on suspicion of first-degree arson and held in Spokane County Jail on $250,000 bail.

“They took him down there, put him in a cell and never talked to him,” said Jacobs’ uncle, Ron Jacobs. “Then they released him 72 hours to the minute.”

Ron Jacobs said he was present when his nephew was arrested, and talked to him after the 5:30 p.m. release. Timothy Jacobs did not wish to comment Thursday.

State law says people must be released if prosecutors do not file charges within 72 hours of detainment. Charges would not be filed, for example, if prosecutors were unable to secure enough evidence against a suspect.

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker did not return a phone message late Thursday.

Prosecutors could still file charges against Jacobs.

Chief Bobby Williams, of the Spokane Fire Department, said he did not know Timothy Jacobs had been released until contacted by a reporter. He said prosecutors had not talked with him.

“Obviously if he’s been released we’d be disappointed that he’s been released,” Williams said.

During Jacobs’ arraignment Tuesday, District Court Judge Gregory Tripp said Jacobs posed a risk to re-offend and for flight, having three prior failures to appear in court.

Jacobs’ criminal record dating to 2001 includes multiple thefts, assault, escape and reckless burning.

Witnesses reportedly saw Jacobs and three other young men shooting bottle rockets into the Whitley Fuel depot July 21. Two days later, witnesses saw him lighting fireworks and later running from Whitley Fuel after the facility erupted into flames, according to police.

Jacobs has maintained his innocence since he was arrested.

“We wouldn’t have arrested him if we didn’t think he was a solid suspect,” Williams said.

Brian Whitley, owner of Whitley Fuel, said prosecutors did not contact him Thursday and said he had not been aware Jacobs had been released.

Williams has said there are additional people of interest in the July 23 arson, which caused $20 million in damage.


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