July 24, 2013 in City

Pullman arson suspect guided by voice, police say

From Staff And Wire Reports
Associated Press photo

Firefighters work to contain a fire at the unoccupied Grove apartments complex in Pullman on July 14. Firefighters responded to the blaze that took almost two hours to contain. The apartment complex was about two weeks from completion. Bryan Kitchen, 31, is suspected of starting the fire.
(Full-size photo)

The man accused of setting fire to an unfinished Pullman apartment complex may have been involved in as many as six other arson incidents dating to 2004, investigators said Tuesday.

Bryan Kitchen, 31, told police he was drunk and that a voice told him to start the July 14 blaze that caused $13 million worth of damage to the Grove apartments, according to court documents. Kitchen, who was employed by a plumbing subcontractor working on the complex, was being held at the Whitman County Jail on a $1 million bond after appearing in court Tuesday afternoon. He may face federal charges.

Court documents indicate Kitchen told conflicting stories to police officers. He also failed a polygraph test before admitting he intentionally started the fire with his lighter.

The blaze destroyed four buildings and a clubhouse under construction near Washington State University. Many of the 88 units had already been rented to students.

Prosecutors think Kitchen may have started several other Pullman fires dating back a decade, according to Detective Dan Hargraves of the Pullman Police Department. Kitchen has not been linked to a series of fires set in a veterinary building and WSU student housing in May 2012.

Kitchen was questioned by police a few hours after the Grove apartment fire, telling officers he had visited the site in the middle of the night because he got a feeling something bad was going to happen there, court documents said. Kitchen told officers he walked the property, using his cellphone as a light, then returned home and got drunk.

Two days later, Kitchen met with officers again but told them he used his lighter, not his cellphone, to find his way around in the dark.

When asked why he came out to the apartment complex in the middle of the night, Kitchen then said he had been home drinking and feared some tools had been stolen from a locked box at the site.When asked why he set the fire, Kitchen told officers a voice in his head told him to do bad things, court documents said.

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