Thurston County man allegedly admits to starting mobile home park fire to ‘kill people’

A 20-year-old man accused of starting a fire that damaged three Thurston County mobile homes is being held in the county jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

Deputies arrested Melvin Geovany Lobato-Artaga at the scene of the fire on Friday, Sept. 8, on suspicion of first-degree arson. He allegedly admitted to starting the blaze with the intent to “kill people,” according to court records.

The fire started before 9:10 p.m. Friday at a mobile home park in the 6800 block of Martin Way East near Lacey. Three mobile homes and three vehicles were burned, Lacey Fire District 3 Battalion Chief Steve Crimmins told The Olympian Sunday.

One home was destroyed, half of a second home was damaged, and a third home had minor damage, he said. Residents evacuated from the homes during the blaze, and no people were injured, he added. However, court records indicate two cats and a ferret died inside the second home.

Prosecutors charged Lobato-Artaga with first-degree arson and malicious mischief on Tuesday, according to court records. He attended his preliminary appearance in Thurston County Superior Court on Monday.

Judge John Skinder set the bail amount after finding probable cause for the alleged crime of first-degree arson. In doing so, he determined the defendant may commit a violent crime if simply released.

Court records show Lobato-Artaga has no known criminal convictions.

A probable cause statement describes the investigation into the incident from the perspective of law enforcement.

Deputies responded to the scene at 9:07 p.m. and began redirecting traffic as fire crews worked on the blaze. Lobato-Artaga contacted a deputy at the scene and told him the trailer where the fire began was his home and one of the vehicles on fire was his car.

During this interaction, the deputy noted, Lobato-Artaga had bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech and smelled of intoxicants. The statement says Lobato-Artaga smiled and laughed as the fire grew and explosions could be heard.

The deputy then asked Lobato-Artaga if he had consumed any alcohol or drugs, but the statement says he denied doing that.

Court records say most people at the scene were reportedly crying, angry or upset, but Lobato-Artaga continued to laugh.

The deputy then spoke to Lobato-Artaga’s roommates. One said five men lived in the trailer where the fire started. The roommate alleged Lobato-Artaga drank heavily and began breaking beer bottles on the floor prior to the fire.

At some point, the couch caught on fire, but the roommate did not see how it started, according to the statement.

The deputy then spoke with a resident of one of the other homes that were burned. She reportedly said she arrived home to find it on fire. Firefighters later confirmed her two cats and a ferret had died inside, according to the statement.

Later that evening, Lobato-Artaga allegedly approached the deputies at the scene and told them he wanted to go to jail because he started the fire on purpose, using a lighter.

Lobato-Artaga allegedly went on to say he wanted to watch the couch burn and he wanted to “kill people,” according to the statement. When a deputy asked why, Lobato-Artaga said he did not know.

A deputy confirmed Lobato-Artaga was drunk after a breathalyzer test, yet he still denied being drunk, according to the statement.