ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Suspected arsonist Sly Jones appeared before a judge Friday, May 5, as prosecutors pushed to keep him in jail until trial. Investigators believe Jones burned down a historic house in east downtown a week ago, and think he’s been behind a lot of other fires.
While the house fire on High Street last week garnered quite a bit of attention, the debate in court Friday actually centered around those other fires Jones is suspected of setting. Neighbors in east downtown expressed sadness and frustration at the time at the loss of the 120-year-old house. However, it was just the latest in a string of fires in the neighborhood.
“The whole neighborhood is terrified. We’re all struggling to sleep. Because every night there’s arson fires and we believe it’s the same person,” said one neighbor at the time.
That person suspected is 51-year-old Sly Jones, who was taken into custody Friday after the home on High Street went up in flames. This isn’t Jones’ first brush with the law, or the first time he’s been accused of starting fires.
“Basically, the outline of the theme of this case is that the defendant has been doing serial [arson] for putting on many fires and each time has been dangerous to this community,” says Victor Sanchez, attorney for the Second Judicial District.
The state detailed Jones’ extensive record of starting fires and throwing rocks at people in Albuquerque over the past two years – citing criminal complaints which say Jones has lit more than ten dumpsters, fences, and areas of vegetation on fire.
The state also noted Jones didn’t report to pretrial services when he was let out on one occasion, and routinely runs from police. Friday, the District Attorney’s office mentioned he has had two cases previously dismissed because he was found incompetent to stand trial.
The DA’s office asked how that would play into Friday’s court proceedings. “We’re asking the defense counsel whether they’ll be raising competence at this time, so we know where this case is going, your Honor,” Sanchez says.
The defense said that can wait for another day, and then attacked the state’s labeling of Jones as a serial arsonist, saying he has never been convicted of the crime.
“Nothing in the complaint here indicates anything that would give rise to the inference or the understanding that Mr. Jones was specifically intending to destroy any piece of property,” says Douglas Wilber, defense attorney for Jones.
The defense also argued that Jones is a crime victim himself, referring to an incident just six days before the High Street fire when a neighbor allegedly caught Jones setting a fire and then chased him down.
“I don’t think that’s a very good case for the state to make that Mr. Jones is dangerous. Mr. Jones is a victim of a vigilante detective who decided to arm himself and threaten an unarmed person with a knife and then pepper spray him,” Wilber says.
In the end, Judge Emeterio Rudolfo ordered Jones to remain behind bars pending his trial – a decision plenty of the neighbors in the area were hoping for.
According to Albuquerque Fire Rescue, there had been 39 fires reported in the east downtown area in the two months before the High Street house burned down. It is unclear whether Jones is being investigated for those.