College professor accused of arson appears in court

Local News

(KTXL) – The college professor accused of setting seven recent fires in Northern California made his second appearance in federal court Wednesday.  

Gary Maynard who taught at Santa Clara and Sonoma State universities was arrested this past weekend after an investigation that began in July.

Court documents say Maynard set seven fires between early July and August including some near the Dixie Fire, the second-largest fire in the state’s history. Maynard is accused of starting these fires near the Lassen and Shasta-Trinity national forests.

“I hope he gets the help he needs,” said Maynard’s former roommate, Kathryn Charpentier. “He’s ill. He’s very ill.”

Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokesperson Adrienne Freeman, while not able to go into detail about this specific investigation, said that looking into any type of arson is a laborious undertaking.

“Investigating fires on public land is a very serious and complicated process and a lot goes into it. It takes a lot of human power to go through many, many pieces of information to make sure that we are doing the right thing,” Freeman explained.

A sworn affidavit from U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Tyler Bolen says that after weeks of Maynard being spotted near where fires were starting, along with tracks near the ignition spots seeming to match the tire thread on his 2012 Kia Soul, a tracker was put on Maynard’s car on Aug. 1.

Bolen goes on to say that when Maynard was stopped and questioned six days later he lied about where he’d been and became irate and threatening once arrested.

“That tracker is going to be extremely important,” said Sacramento-based attorney Mark Reichel. “The Supreme Court says you can’t just put a tracker on people, except in rare circumstances you have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed. And secondly, not just that, you have to prove that other means of getting the evidence are very difficult.”

While it is expected that PG&E may have played a role in starting the Dixie Fire, Reichel also says that prosecutors may not be telling all they know right now.

“This is a case where they do not have to show everything they have to detain someone and then charge them in federal court,” he said. “They really just need probable cause of a certain federal crime, so they can come in and show a certain amount of the cards and say, ‘We can get him on one, your honor, we have probable cause. Please detain him for now.’”

So far, Maynard faces an arson charge in connection to the Ranch Fire and unauthorized entry into a closed area.

Maynard will be back in court on Aug. 24.

Concerns of him being a flight risk and a danger to the community will keep Maynard in custody.

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