LIMA — A homeless man from Lima was ordered held on $750,000 bond Monday for his alleged role in the fire last week that destroyed a vacant downtown building.
Jeffrey England, 40, could face additional charges after reportedly telling police he set the fire deliberately in an attempt to kill two men he knew to be inside the structure.
A preliminary hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in Lima Municipal Court for England, who is charged with one count of aggravated arson in connection with the blaze at 122 N. Elizabeth St., Lima.
England appeared in municipal court Monday via video conference for an arraignment hearing. Judge Tammie Hursh said a public defender would be appointed to represent him. Thursday’s hearing is to allow police and prosecutors to present evidence that is expected to result in England being bound over to Allen County Common Pleas Court. His case would then be presented to a grand jury for consideration of any criminal charges.
Hursch said the aggravated arson charge England currently faces is a felony of the first degree, punishable by up to 16 1/2 years in prison.
According to Detective Brian Snyder of the Lima Police Department, England was squatting in the vacant building, living there with at least two other individuals. After the fire that destroyed the structure which once housed the Roxy Food & Spirits establishment, England went to the Lima Police Department and turned himself in.
Snyder said England “walked into the LPD and admitted starting the fire. He said he set a blanket on fire intentionally, knowing that the men were inside the building. He said he had an argument with them, and he admitted starting the fire to kill the two men.”
An LPD spokesman said Monday that no one was located inside the building or in the debris. The two subjects in question got out of the building and were located and interviewed after the fact, Sgt. Jason Garlock said.
Firefighters were dispatched at 8:45 p.m. June 23 to 122 N. Elizabeth St. and found heavy fire and smoke coming from multiple windows on the third floor of the vacant building. Firefighters began an offensive attack on the fire but were forced to retreat after the building was deemed to be unsafe for firefighters to enter.
The building was a total loss and the city of Lima immediately made arrangements to have the structure torn down for the safety of the public. The demolition began Wednesday.