Emory’s arson arrest took 6 months of investigation

  • Fri Apr 16th, 2010 10:28pm
  • News

By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer

EVERETT — Nine days after arson destroyed the popular restaurant Emory’s on Silver Lake, Everett police detectives identified a 16-year-old Everett boy as a possible suspect.

It took more than six months to collect enough evidence to make an arrest.

Forensic detectives were forced to dig into a waterlogged computer to extract surveillance video images showing the person they believe started the Nov. 9 blaze.

The boy was arrested Wednesday and charged Friday with first-degree arson in the juvenile division of Snohomish County Superior Court.

The blaze caused $2 million in damage, destroyed the iconic lakeside restaurant and left about 50 employees, including cooks, waiters and waitresses, looking for work, officials said.

Police described the fire in court papers as “manifestly dangerous to the lives of the firefighters who responded.”

It wasn’t until detectives were able to piece together surveillance video taken outside the restaurant that their investigation gained traction, according to charging papers.

The video showed a person wearing a hooded sweatshirt walking up to the restaurant and then leaving 57 seconds later. Within three minutes, fire erupted, prosecutors said.

A woman who said she has known the teen suspect for more than 11 years watched the video.

“There was no doubt in her mind that the subject in the video was” the suspect, prosecutors said. She said both the physical appearance and the clothing confirmed to her that police had the right person.

At least two other witnesses also contacted police and identified the suspect as the person in the video, prosecutors said.

James “Ole” Olson believes prosecutors have it wrong. Olson’s daughter is friendly with the suspect, he said.

Olson said he’s watched the video more than 25 times and is convinced that the suspect is not the person in the video.

“The kid in that video is not (the suspect),” Olson said.

Police confronted the boy in early February and he denied starting the fire, they said. The boy said he’d been with three friends at his father’s home when the fire started.

One friend confirmed the alibi, but could not remember the name of the movie they watched, or when that happened, prosecutors wrote. Detectives got in touch with the other two friends who both said they had not been with the suspect as he had claimed.

Before the arson arrest, the boy already was facing unrelated theft and burglary charges. He was ordered held Wednesday in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor John Stansell said he hasn’t decided if he’ll seek to prosecute the boy in adult court.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.