EAGLE, Colorado - An Eagle man charged with trying to burn at least seven people to death made his first District Court appearance Wednesday.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said Andrew Wells, 31, of Eagle, was trying to avenge his broken heart and reportedly thought his ex-girlfriend was in an East Vail apartment complex where he is accused of setting two arson fires.
She was not; she had sought safety with friends in another community to escape Wells' alleged harassment that had continued for weeks. But at least seven other people were in their apartments around 5 a.m. Sept. 22, when Wells allegedly set the blaze.
Wells was one of four prisoners lined up on the front row of the jury box in District Judge Tom Moorhead's courtroom, with Wells on the far left, closest to the gallery. He watched as his ex-girlfriend strode into the courtroom at exactly 9 a.m., shifting his gaze back and forth between her and Moorhead's empty bench.
From the time she walked into the courtroom and the time she left an hour later, she did not look at him.
As the clock turned 9 a.m., Moorhead took his seat behind the bench and the court got down to business.
Local defense attorneys Terry O'Connor and Jim Little are representing Wells. His shackles jangled as he made his way from the jury box to join them at the podium in the middle of the courtroom.
Wells will be back in District Court 9 a.m. Nov. 14, when he will be arraigned on the charges and they'll set a date for a preliminary hearing. During that hearing, Moorhead will decide whether there is enough evidence to put Wells on trial.
Wells allegedly tried to set two fires, one on an exterior corner of a neighboring building and the one on the staircase where his ex-girlfriend lived. The fire on the neighboring building did not burn.
A resident in a neighboring building called 911 to report someone throwing rocks at a building. During the phone call the neighbor told police he smelled smoke and walked outside into the dark and 90 feet across the lawn to investigate.
He spotted the flames on the wooden staircase leaping 8 feet high. Vail police, who arrived seconds later, knocked down the flames with fire extinguishers they carry in their patrol vehicles.
Wells' attitude was one of "universal malice" and "extreme indifference to the value of human life," prosecutors said in court documents when they added attempted murder to Wells' list of charges.
Wells allegedly drove from his home in Eagle to the East Vail apartment complex to set the fires. He drove back to his home in Eagle, where he was arrested later that day, reports said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.