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Arson suspect now also charged with attempted murder

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
Christopher C. Owens

DIXON –  A 20-year-old felon charged with arson after police say he set fire to an apartment building in September now also is charged with attempted murder.

Charges against Christopher C. Owens, who turns 21 on Monday, were upgraded to four counts of aggravated arson and seven counts of attempted first-degree murder, both punishable by 6 to 30 years in prison.

He will be arraigned Wednesday.

The new charges supercede a single count of aggravated arson filed in October.

Defendants often are charged with multiple counts of the same crime, the legal elements of which vary enough to give the judge or jury options when considering a verdict. 

According to the charges, Owens set fire to two windows and the front and back porch of an apartment building at 511 W. Third St. on Sept. 20, “with the intent to kill” a Dixon man he fought with.

Prosecutors also say there were people inside the targeted apartment, an apartment upstairs, and in an adjacent building. 

Owens remains in Lee County Jail on $100,000 bond.

According to police, officers and firefighters were called to the apartment about 2:43 a.m. Sept. 20. Three fires were burning on the south, west, and north sides of the building. 

Less than an hour earlier, police had been called to the building on a disturbance report. The man injured in the fight man lived in an apartment on the west side of the building, which sustained the most damage.

Owens was seen in that area and witnesses said he smelled like gasoline. A police officer also said he smelled gas on Owen’s clothing when he was arrested several house later, police said. 

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