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Jailed man charged with arson

Published: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 2:48 p.m. CST

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DIXON – A Dixon felon already jailed in connection with a fight last month now is charged with setting an apartment building on fire.

A $100,000 warrant for aggravated arson was filed Thursday against Christopher C. Owens, 20.

Aggravated arson is a Class X felony punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison.

Owens already is in the Lee County Jail on a $50,000 bond on a charge of aggravated battery.

Lee County prosecutors dropped that charge Thursday after filing the more serious arson charge.

Owens will have a status hearing Wednesday on the new charge and on two petitions to revoke his probation in unrelated cases.

Police and firefighters were called about 2:43 a.m. Sept. 20 to 511 W. Third St.

Three separate fires were found on the south, west, and north sides of the building. It appeared some kind of liquid accelerant had been used to start the fires, according to police.

Less than an hour earlier, police had been called to the building after receiving a report about a disturbance. A man who lived in the building and was involved in the fight was taken to KSB Hospital with minor injuries.

The injured man lived in an apartment on the west side of the building, which sustained the most damage, according to police.

Owens was seen in that area of the building, and police say he had been involved in the fight.

Witnesses reported that Owens smelled like gasoline, Detective Sgt. Matt Richards said.

Owens was arrested about 5:20 a.m. in the 300 block of East First Street. A police dog detected a gasoline-like scent on his clothing, Richards said.

Police still are waiting for reports from the state fire marshal’s office about what accelerant was used to start the fire, Richards said.

The liquid appeared to be petroleum-based, Richards said.

On Nov. 24, Owens, armed with a steak knife, kicked in the door of a house on West First Street and took money from a woman. In July, he was sentenced to 30 months of probation for trespass to a residence. Home invasion, armed robbery and armed violence charges were dropped.

In October 2011, he pleaded guilty to criminal defacement of property for breaking into a garage the month before. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a burglary charge.

In August 2011, after he pleaded guilty to the Feb. 3 break-in at Al & Leda’s Pizzeria, he was sentenced to a year of conditional discharge plus jail time served.

He also has misdemeanor convictions for theft and consumption of alcohol as a minor.

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