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Arkansas teen charged in fire that injured woman was previous arson suspect, documents show

by Stephen Simpson | November 15, 2018 at 2:35 p.m.

A teenager who has been charged as an adult in connection with a fire that destroyed an Arkansas home and critically injured a woman was a previous arson suspect, according to court documents.

Gabriel Walton, 17, of Jonesboro, was officially charged Wednesday with arson, two counts of residential burglary, theft of a firearm and misdemeanor theft of $1,000 or less. He is being held in the Craighead County jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

Last month, probable cause was found to also charge Johnathan Shultz, 17, of Jonesboro as an adult in connection with the fire, according to a news release from the Jonesboro Fire Department. He hadn't officially been charged in circuit court as of Thursday afternoon.

Shultz, Walton and an unidentified 16-year-old male were arrested on Oct. 10 as they walked past the Harrisburg Road home police say they set fire to two days earlier.

Firefighters initially responded after receiving a call from a witness, the agency said. The caller said he noticed the house fire and was able to notify the owner's daughter.

The owner's daughter ran into the burning house and had to be rescued by the Jonesboro Fire Department, according to a probable cause affidavit. Police said the woman was resuscitated on scene and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit at the Med in Memphis with life-threatening injuries.

Police said the woman is still receiving treatment at the hospital and the charges against the suspects could change based on her condition.

Fire marshals said evidence showed the suspects had entered the residence through a broken window on the back side of the residence and the fire had been intentionally set.

During the investigation, the marshals saw three minors walking nearby during school hours, authorities said.

The fire marshals said they recognized Walton from a previous arson case at Douglas MacArthur Junior High School.

Walton ran away when they attempted to talk to him, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Shultz was stopped a short time later and found to be in possession of items taken during a burglary at Rosewood Circle, the affidavit said.

In that break-in, a back window was broken out, "which was similar to the" Harrisburg Road burglary, police wrote.

Officers said they found two firearms on one of the suspects and found several rifles and a shotgun hidden under leaves and branches that were also stolen from a residence on Rosewood Circle.

Police said they found Walton in the parking lot of MacArthur School and took him into custody. Walton's room was searched and a juvenile probation officer found a lighter with the burned residence owner's information on it, authorities said.

Fire marshals told an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter they couldn't talk about the fire at MacArthur or Walton's record because it was a juvenile case.

According to paperwork written by Walton, he had a prior reckless burning in his past and had absconded from juvenile court two days before his arrest in October.

A trial date hasn't been officially set for Walton.

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