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Court case for Wahkiakum County arson suspect awaits competency exam

Court case for Wahkiakum County arson suspect awaits competency exam

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Attorneys on Monday scheduled a time to review a competency exam for a 39-year-old Cathlamet man suspected of starting multiple fires near Vista Park in Skamokawa earlier this month.

Wahkiakum County Prosecutor Dan Bigelow said lawyers plan to meet on Sept. 28 to review the evaluation for Matthew Johnson, who is currently being held in the county jail on bail of $5,000. He was arrested on Sept. 2 on suspicion of second-degree arson.

“On the eighth of September, an order was entered to have him examined to determine his competency to stand trial,” Bigelow said. “They will review that on the 28th to see if the evaluation is complete.”

Investigators with the Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Natural Resources linked Johnson to a series of brush fires that broke out Aug. 29, including one 30-foot-by-30-foot blaze near a workshop building at Vista Park, according to a probable cause statement. Investigators determined that the fires were started with a diesel fuel accelerant, and video footage showed Johnson walking in and out of a workshop in the area with a can of diesel, according to the statement.

Johnson was an employee at the park, according to reports from the Wahkiakum County Eagle.

During an interview on Sept. 2 before his arrest, Johnson told deputies he previously had been in trouble for starting fires.

“He told us about a time when he was a kid and had burned a pile of manure because he was a dumb kid, got bored and thought it was cool. He stated that this time, he lit the fire behind the shop because he thought it would be cool as well,” the statement says.

Johnson denied using the diesel as an accelerant. However, he told deputies he used a match to ignite the fire, according to the statement.

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