Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Shayne J. Harma of Havre, 23, was charged with eight felonies in state District Court in Havre in connection with a string of fires in Highland Park over the last month. The charges filed by the Hill County Attorney’s office include six counts of arson, one count of burglary and a count of criminal endangerment. Harma was being held in the Hill County Detention Center this morning on $250,000 bond. If convicted, Harma faces up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine on each charge. Harma was charged with starting fires on property in Highland Park starting on Aug. 30. He is accused of starting fires in a garage on Washington Avenue on Aug. 30, Aug. 31, and Sept. 14, starting a fire in a van next to the same garage on Sept. 17, starting a fire on a garage on Wilson Avenue on Sept. 21, and starting a fire on a residence on Boulevard Avenue on Sept. 24 while the resident was still inside the building. According to a court document, Harma moved to Havre from Cairo, Ill., shortly before the first fire in Highland Park. He is a suspect in an investigation of a rash of fires there, according to the document. According to a court document, law enforcement officers and firefighters began to be suspicious that the fires had been set intentionally after the garage on Washington Avenue burned the third time and the adjacent van also burned. The fire was initially deemed started by electrical problems and the subsequent fires rekindles from the original blaze, but after the two-week period before the third fire started and the van also burned the firefighters and officers agreed that the situation was suspicious, the document said. After the fire on Sept. 21, officers began patrolling the area due to the rash of fires, the document said. About 2 a.m. on Sept. 24, an officer saw smoke and found the residence on Boulevard Avenue on fire, the document said. The officer called for the Havre Fire Department to respond. He got the resident out of the building and began to use a garden hose on the fire until the firefighters arrived. After the firefighters arrived, the officer began to question residents of the area, the document said. A person told the officer she knew Someone, Harma, who worked a late shift, and went to bring him out, the document said. Another resident told the officer that he was suspicious of that person, because he had seen him running from the garage that burnt on Aug. 30, the document said. When Harma originally came out he told the officer he had gotten off shift at 1 a.m. and had not seen anything, the document said. He told the officer that he and his mother had moved to Havre from Illinois due to his having problems with gangs there. After the firefighters said the cause of the fire was “very suspicious,” an officer asked Harma to come to the police station for an interview, the document said. According to the document, after Harma was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver, Harma told an investigating officer that he moved to Havre because of a series of fires there. Harma told the officer that the fires had started near his residence in Cairo. According to the document, while the officers was interviewing Harma another officer contacted law enforcement in Cairo and was told that they were investigating a series of fires there. Harma was their chief suspect but he left before the officers were able to “catch up with” him, the document said. According to the document, a witness told officers that he had seen someone coming out of the garage on Washington Ave. On Aug. 30, and the man seemed startled and nervous and went to the residence where Harma was staying. Later that day the fire in the garage was reported. The witness said he had seen the man again in the alley between the time of the first fire and when the van was burned, and again the man appeared startled and returned to the residence where Harma was staying. He said he had never seen the man again other than the night the residence on Boulevard burned. He said he was certain the man he saw was Harma, the document said.