The criminal case against two men accused of breaking into a north Casper home, stealing from it and setting it on fire will continue in Natrona County District Court.
Both Isaiah Montiano Like, 19, and Stacy Clark, 46, appeared Thursday morning in Natrona County Circuit Court for their preliminary hearings. Both men, who are homeless, face charges of first-degree arson and burglary. Judge Michael Patchen bound over their cases to District Court after the hearing.
During the hearing, Casper police detective Anthony Stedillie outlined his investigation into the alleged crimes in response to questions from attorneys.
The fire was first reported the morning of May 31, when someone opened the front door and found the home in the 300 block of North Jefferson Street was filled with smoke.
Arson investigators later determined that the fire had been started by a person with the help of “petroleum-based accelerants,” court documents state. Stedillie said the basement, where the fire started, smelled of gasoline.
Investigators then reviewed surveillance video of the exterior of the house. The video showed two men, later identified as Montiano Like and Clark, arriving at the home and sitting on the porch at about 9 the previous night.
The video then showed Montiano Like entering the home via a window at about 10:15 p.m. and opening the front door so Clark could enter. Stedillie said the video showed that Montiano Like had brought a small gasoline can to the residence and took it inside.
The video showed Montiano Like carrying items out of the house. The homeowner told police he believed golf clubs, a television and a drone were missing from the home.
At about 11:30 p.m. both men are seen exiting the home. Five minutes later, smoke begins coming out of the residence.
Police encountered both men twice that night before the burglary or the fire was reported, Stedillie said. Both times the men were allowed to continue on their way. One officer reported that Montiano Like had a small flat-screen television at the time.
In an interview with Stedillie, Montiano Like said that he had permission to be in the home. He denied setting fire to the home.
Stedillie said the home was used to house employees of Zenith Security. He said that Montiano Like briefly worked for the company, which sells security systems, but had been dismissed. However, when Stedillie spoke to the owner of the home, he found that Clark and Montiano Like “were not in any way welcome in the residence,” the detective said Thursday.
Clark told Stedillie that his friend — presumably Montiano Like, though Clark did not know his name at the time of the interview — told him they could sleep in the home.
During her questioning of the detective, Montiano Like’s public defender pointed out that Stedillie did not interview every person known to be living at the home and that perhaps another person could have given permission to the teen.
However, Kerri Johnson said that there was enough information to bind over the case to district court, where a jury could determine whether permission was given.
Clark’s public defender, Curtis Cheney, questioned whether his client had any knowledge that a crime was occurring. Per Clark’s statements, he thought Montiano Clark had permission to enter the home and did not know about the fire. Clark also did not remove any of the items from the house except for a small plastic bag with unknown contents.
“Really, this case is Mr. Clark being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Cheney said.
Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen said that the claim the men had permission to enter the home was “absolutely ridiculous.”
“While we cannot say who struck the match, judge, they were both there,” he said.
Both men remained in custody Thursday on a $200,000 bond.