Suspect may face attempted murder charges
September 24, 2012
VAIL, Colorado – An Eagle man allegedly tried to burn down an apartment building where his ex-girlfriend was living because he said she broke his heart.
Andrew Wells, 31, was arrested on felony arson charges and may face attempted murder charges for everyone in the building when the flames were set, 5 a.m. Saturday.
“He said he intended to scare the victim and force her to relocate out of Vail and to gain revenge against the victim for breaking his heart,” said District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, citing the arrest affidavit.
Wells made his first court appearance Monday morning, when Eagle County Court Judge Katharine Sullivan set his bond at $765,000.
Sullivan gave prosecutors 10 days to file formal charges. Wells remains in custody at the Eagle County jail.
“It’s too early to say what kind of charges we’re going to file, but we’re looking a wide range,” Hurlbert said.
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Wells allegedly started in Eagle and drove to East Vail, where the fires were set using gasoline as an accelerant. He drove back to his home in Eagle, where he was arrested later Saturday, reports said.
The second fire was set on the ground floor of an exterior staircase, blocking the only escape route for people in that part of that building.
No injuries were reported.
Report of a prowler
At about 5 a.m. Saturday, Vail Police officers received a 911 call about a prowler at the apartment complex at 5020 Main Gore Place in East Vail, the Gore Creek Meadows apartment complex. The caller told police the prowler was making noise and throwing rocks.
Moments later, while police officers were on the way, the reporting party told police he smelled smoke. He went downstairs to investigate and that’s when he spotted the staircase fire, reports said.
“It was fortunate in its timing,” said Mike Vaughn with the Vail Fire Department.
The first fire Wells allegedly tried to light, on Building D, would not burn because the lawn sprinklers had just soaked the area. He made his way to Building E where he apparently thought his girlfriend was staying, and set that staircase fire blocking the escape route, reports said.
Vail police were on the scene moments after that 5 a.m. call came in.
As flames leaped up to at least 8 feet high, officers used the fire extinguishers in their patrol cars to knock down the fire until firefighters could arrive minutes later.
An engine company from the Vail Fire Department’s East Vail fire station got the call at 5 a.m. and was on the scene four minutes later, according to fire department records.
Vail police were on high alert after a car fire at that same location last Wednesday. The car did not belong to Wells’ girlfriend’s car, reports said, but police were keeping a close watch.
“Vail police was tenacious in their efforts in making sure the woman and everyone else was safe,” Vaughn said.
Wells’ ex-girlfriend’s vehicle had been tampered with prior to that night, Hurlbert said.
Once the fire was out, Vail police and Vail firefighters were quickly joined by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and it didn’t take them long to determine that the fire was intentionally set, targeting one particular tenant of the building, police said.
That investigation led them to Wells, who was taken into custody at his Eagle home. Wells was arrested on a warrant stemming from previous offenses.
Once they had him in custody, Vail police detectives interrogated Wells, who reportedly confessed and was later charged with various criminal acts stemming from the fire. Vail police detectives also served a search warrant on Wells’ vehicle and house in Eagle.
After he was read his Miranda rights and taken into custody, he talked to detectives for at least a half hour, reports said.
Wells faced two charges for violating a protection order in Massachusetts in 2007, and an Eagle County possession of marijuana case from 2009.
Wells told Sullivan he will be applying for the public defender for the charges that led to Saturday’s arrest.
He’s back in court at 1 p.m. Oct. 9.
He’ll also be back in court Oct. 10 for a felony DUI charge. Local defense attorney Jim Little was in court Monday with Wells on that charge, but made it clear he won’t represent Wells for the alleged East Vail rampage.
Even if Wells makes bond, he’ll be required to be on a GPS system and call in daily, Sullivan ruled.
He also faces a separate electronic stalking charge, stemming from allegedly harassing the same woman.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.