Columbia resident faces arson charge after house fire

Friday, September 28, 2007 | 5:13 p.m. CDT; updated 11:10 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Vanessa A. Bennett

A Columbia resident was charged with first-degree arson on Thursday in connection with a fire at a central Columbia home last week.

Vanessa A. Bennett, 45, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Firefighters were called to a house at 1711-B Monroe St. at about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 20 due to the smell of natural gas, but firefighters found no evidence of a gas leak. Firefighters later saw smoke and flames coming from the house’s garage at about 4 a.m. Sept. 20, the Missourian reported. The fire caused smoke and water damage to an apartment in the building. No one was injured in the blaze.

Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said the suspect’s motives are not known at this time.

Sapp said the suspect was found because of the efforts of the fire department and Columbia police.

“It was a culmination of good investigative skills, collected evidence and information gathered from the detectives at the Major Crimes Unit, as well as the fire investigators,” he said.

Sapp declined to release any information on how the fire is suspected of having been started.

Bennett pleaded guilty to unlawful use of drug paraphernalia in August 2005, according to Missouri

Bennett was being held in the men’s area of the Boone County Jail on $75,000 bond Friday afternoon.

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