Utah judge: Alleged apartment arsonist to remain in jail
Published: February 24, 2014 02:01PM
Updated: February 24, 2014 10:28PM
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Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune Firefighters battle a four-alarm fire near downtown Salt Lake City, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

An electrician charged with setting fire to a Salt Lake City apartment complex under construction will remain in custody while awaiting trial, a federal judge said Monday.

Dustin Jay Bowman, 34, is charged with intentionally setting a Feb. 9 fire that destroyed the $6 million apartment complex under construction at 550 E. 500 South.

Drew Yeates, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead to keep Bowman in custody at the Salt Lake County jail because of several “red flags,” including Bowman’s daily use of spice and his recent failure to appear in court or comply with conditions set in several other court cases.

Yeates also said Bowman is a danger to himself because of a history of depression that included a suicide attempt last summer, which could be exacerbated by the current charges he faces.

Federal Public Defender Jaimie Zenger, who is representing Bowman, said he would not contest the prosecutor’s recommendation.

Both Yeates and Pead noted that 2013 was an especially difficult year for Bowman.

Bowman’s run-ins with the law consisted mostly of tickets for speeding and lack of vehicle insurance until last April. He was arrested on April 29, 2013, in Bountiful for possession of spice. A day later, he was arrested on separate drug possession and shoplifting charges by Centerville police.

In the first case, he was eventually cited with failure to appear in court for a pre-trial conference, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He subsequently entered a plea in abeyance and was ordered to undergo drug treatment at the Davis County Behavioral Center and fined $1,052.

In the second drug case, Bowman also entered a plea in abeyance and was fined just over $500.

Bowman failed to keep up with payments in the drug cases and he was sent debt collection letters shortly before his arrest on the arson charge.

He received a suspended 90-day jail sentence in the shoplifting case last July and was ordered to pay $400, but was rearrested in November after failing to make the required $50-a-month payments. Bowman then failed to show up for a required court hearing in December; an arrest warrant was issued charging him with contempt of court.

He was arrested Jan. 9 and then asked for and received permission to extend his payment schedule.

Bowman also was facing an arrest warrant issued on Jan. 28 after he did not show up for a scheduled court hearing in December on a citation of failing to pay a UTA fare.

On Feb. 9, Bowman allegedly set the fire that gutted the 64,000-square-foot apartment project after smoking spice in one of the units, according to a felony complaint filed in U.S. District Court. If convicted, he faces a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

After several interviews with investigators, Bowman admitted that after smoking spice he entered the apartment complex and lit some cardboard on fire and tossed it against a boxed bathtub leaning against a wood wall because he “wanted to see the fire department,” according to the complaint. Bowman was arrested Feb. 14.

Bowman became a suspect after investigators watched surveillance camera footage that captured the image of a man walking through an alley immediately west of the apartment building shortly before the fire began.

brooke@sltrib.com