Arson suspect faces 11 charges; next court date
An arrest was made March 18 in connection with a recent outbreak of rural barn fires.
Christopher M. Walker, 30, of Carlinville was charged with six felony counts of arson, four felony counts of aggravated arson and one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property in connection with a series of rural arson incidents south and north of Carlinville over the past month.
The four aggravated arson charges are Class X felonies due to injuries sustained to first responders. Each count carries a sentencing guideline of six to 30 years of mandatory imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections with no eligibility for probation, if convicted.
The six arson charges are class 2 felonies, which carry a sentencing guideline of three to seven years if convicted.
The state’s attorney’s office said the criminal damage to property charge was a misdemeanor since it alleges there was less than $150 in damage. A determination of damage more than $150 would have resulted in another felony charge.
“The preliminary hearing is held to determine if we have probable cause,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison said.
Occasionally, the preliminary hearings can be waived, at which point, the discovery process will likely start, Garrison said.
A Carlinville is facing multiple charges of arson after he was arrested in connection with a March 17 incident south of Carlinville.
Christopher M. Walker, 30, has been charged with four counts of aggravated arson, six counts of arson and one count of criminal damage to property. Walker is being held at the Macoupin County Jail and cannot be released on bond after a court ruling Wednesday afternoon.
The charges were formally presented in a Macoupin County courtroom March 18 with Judge Josh Meyer presiding.
In addition to the Tuesday evening incident, which led to the eventual arrest, other related incidents occurred between Feb. 17 and March 17 and took place at the following locations: 25847 Welton Cemetery Road, Carlinville, on March 4; 22895 Nursery Road, Carlinville, on March 6; 225 College Avenue, Carlinville, Feb. 17; 19064 Washer Road, Gillespie, Feb. 17; 24270 Hettick Road, Carlinville; 8994 Litchfield Trail, on March 4; 8757 Litchfield Trail, on March 4; and 17280 Lake Drive, on March 9.
Tuesday incident details
A call came into the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 6:06 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, of an abandoned house fire at 17243 Illinois Route 4, rural Carlinville.
The Carlinville Fire Department District responded to the scene and called in the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal for assistance.
OSFM and the Sheriff’s Office arrested Walker.
“All of the agencies involved in this investigation did a great job working together, which led to the arrest of this suspect,” said Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl. In addition to the Sheriff’s Office and OSFM, the Carlinville Police, Illinois State Police and Illinois Secretary of State Police were a part of the investigation.
Walker was interviewed by a law enforcement official March 18 at the Gillespie Police Department and confessed to 10 acts of arson.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jordan Garrison filed a verified application and motion for denial of bond at the March 18 court appearance. Meyer then denied bond for Walker when the charges were issued.
“The acts of arson started with outbuildings/barns and bales of hay/straw,” according to court documents filed by the Macoupin County State’s Attorney’s Office. “As the acts continued, the defendant progressed to abandon(ed) properties that used to be residential. When confronted, the defendant could not justify why he committed the act, but stated it was partially due to past trauma.”
In addition, the defendant further stated he knew the acts of arson had hurt individuals and he continued to commit the acts, according to the bond denial documentation.
Walker’s next court date will be a preliminary hearing Monday, March 30, at 9 a.m.