Man faces felonies in Yuma apartment fire
Felony charges of arson of an occupied structure and criminal damage were filed Friday in Yuma Justice Court in connection to a fire at an apartment complex.
Joseph Perez, 19, who was represented by attorney Ray Hanna, was informed of the charges by Justice of the Peace Gregory Stewart during his arraignment.
Hanna, who is the head of the Yuma County Public Defender’s Office, was only appearing on Perez’s behalf for the hearing.
After finding there was enough to hold Perez on the charges, Stewart assigned a court-appointed attorney to represent him in future proceedings.
He also scheduled Perez’s next court appearance for 4 p.m. on Feb. 17 for a preliminary hearing and ordered his bond remain at the $250,000 it was previously set at.
Perez’s case, however, will likely go before the grand jury to determine whether probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed.
If that happens, his next hearing will be in Yuma County Superior Court.
“If probable cause is established the case will be transferred,” Stewart said. “If no probable cause is found the case will be dismissed.”
The fire was reported just after 5 a.m. on Wednesday at the Pepperwood Apartments, located at 1860 S. 3rd Ave. When firefighters from the Yuma Fire Department arrived on scene, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from a second-floor apartment.
Firefighters were quickly able to bring the fire under control. The apartment sustained significant fire and smoke damage.
The apartment where the fire started had recently been vacated. It was in a building with seven others, and all of the occupants were able to evacuate safely.
The first-floor apartment below where the fire started also sustained some fire and smoke damage and was not able to be reoccupied. Some other apartments were also left without power.
Fire investigators later determined the fire to have been intentionally set.
At approximately 7:25 a.m., the YFD requested the assistance of the Yuma Police Department Investigations Unit, which led to Perez’s arrest.