WAPAKONETA — Bond was set at $500,000 Wednesday for a Wapakoneta teenager charged with arson in connection with a Sunday night blaze that caused extensive damage to a downtown Wapakoneta landmark.
Wesley Slaughter, 19, made his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon in Auglaize County Municipal Court, where he entered a not guilty plea to a first-degree felony charge of aggravated arson.
Wapakoneta firefighters were dispatched shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday to the former Koneta Inn at 1 Perry St., a structure that housed a motel with some two dozen occupants along with a restaurant and barber shop. Upon their arrival, crews found smoke coming from several windows of the building and flames coming from an apartment on the front of the structure, the spokesman said. Nearly two dozen occupants of the motel portion of the building were exiting the structure upon firefighters’ arrival, and all were able to escape safely.
A local restaurant owner paid to have the persons displaced by the fire gain temporary lodging at a Wapakoneta motel.
By Monday afternoon, Slaughter, reportedly a resident of the Koneta building, was arrested and charged with arson.
During his video appearance Wednesday before Municipal Court Judge Andrew Augsburger, Slaughter pleaded not guilty to the charge. He appeared without an attorney and said he could not afford one. Augsburger appointed a public defender to represent him.
The judge said that, if convicted of the charge against him, Slaughter faces up to 11 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. He would be required to register as a convicted arsonist for life. He could also be ordered to make restitution for damages to the building and to harm inflicted on those occupants who were left homeless.
A preliminary hearing will be scheduled within the next 10 days to allow Slaughter to face his accusers, the judge said.
The Koneta building has stood in downtown Wapakoneta since 1898.