LIBERAL, Mo. — The Barton County prosecutor filed charges against two men Tuesday in connection with several cases of arson, the most recent of which involving the former Liberal High School building and elementary gymnasium.
Barton County Sheriff Mitchell Shaw's staff on Monday arrested Nathan L. Jones, 27, and Thomas J. Ingram, 24.
“I’m hoping that we got the two people who are involved with this,” Shaw said in an interview with the Globe Tuesday morning. “I’m hoping that there’s not going to be any more further fires.”
The Liberal School District was closed Monday and Tuesday, and officials could not be reached for comment.
According to the sheriff, Barton County deputies and the Liberal police chief responded to the scene of the fire after the Barton County 911 Center received calls at 10:16 p.m. Sunday. The fire was extinguished Monday morning by the Liberal Fire Department, which received assistance from several other fire departments, including Lamar, Nevada and Pittsburg, Kansas.
The statement said deputies gathered leads that pointed to Jones and, after further investigation and questioning, to Ingram. Both men are charged with six counts of second-degree burglary and six counts of second-degree arson.
The probable-cause statement submitted to the prosecuting attorney's office on Tuesday states that the two suspects were involved in both school fires as well as several others in recent weeks.
Sunday's school fire comes on the heels of a fire Sept. 16 at the district’s old bus barn at 107 S. Payne St., according to court records. Both suspects admitted to being together when one of them lighted a truck mat on fire, which ultimately burned a bus parked in the shed, according to court records.
Both suspects also admitted to entering on Sunday evening the old middle school building, where one of them ran upstairs to start a fire, according to the affidavit. The week before on Friday, the two men also said they entered a vacant house at 309 Walser St., where one set fire to plastic materials in the kitchen and placed a bleach bottle on top of it. According to the probable-cause statement, on Thursday the two suspects entered a vacant house at 300 Fishback St., where one of them set fire to a shower curtain.
One of the suspects, according to the affidavit, told authorities that the other suspect threatened to cut off his hand or kill him.