Man charged with faking arsons
Freelance investigator wanted to make his accelerant-sniffing dog look good, attorneys say.
MOUNT CLEMENS — Jeffrey Wallace was more worried about his dog than himself when he appeared in court Wednesday to face charges of planting arson evidence, his attorney said.
Wallace, a former assistant fire chief and arson investigator, was charged in 42-2 District Court with planting accelerants at scenes to make fires look like arsons. But even though Wallace could face up to 15 years in prison, he was concerned his accelerantsniffing dog would be euthanized, said his attorney, Marc Lakin. “Are you OK?” Lakin asked after the proceedings.
“No,” Wallace said. “I’m not.”
Wallace’s Labrador/golden retriever mix, Cops, is at the center of the case, in which both Lakin and Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith say Wallace planted gasoline, lighter fluid and other accelerants in an attempt to make the dog look like a hero.
“The dog’s skills were starting to wane, and he wanted to help the dog,” Smith said. “He had gotten a lot of adulation from the law enforcement community, and he wanted to keep that up.”
Lakin said: “It was a silly thing to do.”
The attorney entered a not guilty plea after Wallace was charged with obstructing justice and contaminating a crime scene, both of which are felonies.
After the arraignment, Chesterfield Township Police transported Wallace to Bay County to be charged with planting accelerants there.
Judge Paul Cassidy set Wallace’s bond at $50,000. A preliminary examination was set for June 7.
Wallace was arraigned Friday on similar charges in Gladwin and is free on $50,000 bond.
Meanwhile, Cops is being housed in a State Police kennel, Sgt. Allan Ogg said.
“We are not going to destroy the dog,” Ogg said. “When Mr. Wallace was arrested, the question came up of what to do with the dog, and we decided to keep him in our kennel so he would be well cared for.”
Wallace was a longtime Eastpointe firefighter and official, who was on the force for 30 years. He was trained in 2003 to handle Cops under a program sponsored by State Farm Insurance.
When Wallace retired in November, he took the dog with him and became a freelance arson investigator.