Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Police: Client torched counseling center

Hailey man faces felony arson and burglary charges


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

    A police report concerning a fire last week at a mental-health counseling center in Hailey states that the man accused of starting the fire was a client at the center and had been in a counseling session on Tuesday, June 17, only hours before the fire started.
    A probable-cause affidavit filed by Hailey police Lt. Steve England does not state what may have caused Evan Pisa Puluti to allegedly resort to torching the place; the report, however, states that Puluti told police that he “contemplated arson” after leaving a visit with a counselor at Wood River Counseling Center at about 4 p.m. on June 17.
    Following an investigation by Hailey police, the Hailey Fire Department and the state fire marshal, Puluti was interviewed and arrested the afternoon of Wednesday, June 18, on felony charges of first-degree arson and burglary. He pleaded not guilty at an initial court appearance on June 19 in Blaine County Magistrate Court.
    Ketchum attorney Andrew Parnes was assigned as public defender and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 2 before Judge R. Ted Israel. Puluti was released from custody later on June 19 after posting $15,000 bond.
    The Hailey Fire Department, with the assistance of Wood River Fire and Rescue and the Bellevue Fire Department, quickly extinguished the fire after it was reported at 10:50 p.m. on June 17. Damage, estimated at $100,000, was mainly to the reception area of the building, although extensive smoke damage occurred throughout the facility.
    England reported in his affidavit that investigation by Hailey Fire Marshal Mike Baledge and State Fire Marshal Verl Jarvie showed that the perpetrator had broken a window on the west side of the building, climbed through the window and spread gasoline throughout the reception room before igniting the blaze and fleeing.
    England noted that Baledge said that whoever started the fire would likely have suffered cuts from broken glass or burns from the fire and might seek treatment.
    The investigation led to Puluti after an anonymous telephone tip to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office reported that Puluti may have been involved in the fire and that he had been treated later the night of the fire at St. Luke’s Wood River hospital for a cut on his hand.
    England wrote that the anonymous tip led to an interview with Puluti, which resulted in his arrest.




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