Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Troy man accused of arson, burglary in R Place fire

The Western News | September 15, 2023 7:00 AM

A fire investigation at a popular Troy restaurant last month led to a man being jailed on arson and burglary charges.

Joseph Michael Haughton, 41, is charged with three felonies including two for arson and one for burglary. Held in the Lincoln County Detention Center on $75,000 bail, Haughton appeared on video in District Court on Monday, Sept. 11, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

District Judge Matt Cuffe set Nov. 27 for Haughton’s next court hearing.

According to a narrative filed by county Sheriff’s Office Det. Brandon Holzer, his work began on Aug. 16 when he responded to the R Place to assist in a fire investigation. He spoke with Fire Marshal Henson who showed him the fire area in the center of the floor in the back-office area.

Fire crews had thrown objects, such as flooring, paper towels, cups and boxes, in the area out of the building to reduce fire spread.

Holzer reported the laminate had burned and the fire was working its way down through the ceiling. He determined the pattern indicated the fire hadn’t started from below in the kitchen and dining area. When Holzer attempted to contact the state fire investigator, he learned the person was unavailable.

Holzer then placed the flooring together and the fire chief showed him he believed a paper towel was placed on fire and boxes were added to it. Holzer wrote that the fire appeared to be arson because it was in the middle of the floor and there was no energy source or open flame in that area. Holzer then spoke to the son of the owners of the restaurant, seized the router and hooked it up behind locked doors that only the police department had access to. The investigator then learned from Troy Police Chief Katie Davis that a red money bag was missing $300. A manager of the business told Davis that the money is used in case of an emergency and was hidden upstairs.

Holzer then interviewed two employees who had closed the restaurant the previous night. They explained their routine and what happened that night. Holzer then met with the son of the owners at the police station. He brought in clips of video surveillance from about 3:30 a.m. that showed a single person entering the upstairs apartment area. Holzer reported seeing the suspect using a knife to pry open a lock and enter through a glass sliding door. The footage showed the suspect ride a BMX style bike by the stairs and around the drive through. He then walks up the stairs. Holzer said the suspect wore a hat and a hoodie with the draw strings pulled tight. He also wore baggy cargo shorts and striped Adidas shoes.

Holzer wrote in his report that the suspect had a series of tattoos on his calf and the front of the shin. At some point the detective spoke to a fire fighter who said he should investigate Haughton.

After finding Haughton’s arrest photos in their system, Holzer located the same University of Oregon Duck tattoo on his left leg. When Holzer spoke to Davis she told him Haughton was having family issues and was living out of his truck in Troy. She also said Haughton was seen living in the apartment complex in his truck in the Lion Manor parking lot. The complex is a few blocks behind the R Place and where the suspect rode his bike.

Holzer then spoke to Troy Police Officer Henry Roy who told him Haughton rides a BMX bike and has seen the defendant wear Adidas shoes.

Roy did a welfare check on Haughton on Aug. 18 on bar row and recorded the encounter. Holzer wrote in his report that Haughton was very upset over family disputes. Holzer wrote that Haughton’s tattoo matches what was seen in surveillance video.

When the owners of the restaurant returned from a cruise on Aug. 21, they told Holzer they leave money for their managers when they are out of town. They also confirmed a red money bag held $300 in bills and change.

Convictions for arson and burglary may result in a maximum 20-year sentence on each count in the Montana State Prison.