An area man is facing a felony charge for his involvement in an arson fire on Springtown Road in Mineral Point.
Louis Culp, 42, of Mineral Point, is charged with a class D felony of arson in the second degree. Culp is being held in the Washington County Jail on a $25,000 bond.
According to a probable cause statement, the State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted an investigation of a fire that occurred in a vacant home located at 11207 Springtown Road in Mineral Point in Washington County.
The investigator reported they were able to determine that there was no electricity to the home and it was heavily damaged by fire. The investigator determined that someone set the fire and in no way did it start in its own.
Evidence from video surveillance and witness statements indicated that someone poured flammable fluid onto flammable material and set the fire. One witness told the investigator that Culp admitted to setting the fire and that he needed a place to hide. Another person was a witness to that conversation and told the investigator what Culp had said.
Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen said in an interview Monday afternoon that they found a pipe bomb in a tree where one of the suspects involved with the recent fires was seen walking. Monday morning they marked off the area after locating the pipe bomb in the tree and asked residents to stay away from the area and evacuated the immediate danger zone.
“We had a rash of suspicious fires in the Springtown area the last several months and through the investigation we were able to get a person into custody and charged,” Jacobsen said. “In the process the fire marshal’s office was following up on some information they had received and information that came through the interview process.”
Jacobsen described the explosive device as small and looked to be about an inch in diameter and four to five inches long with an eight-inch wick similar to a firework's wick protruding out of one end of it.
He said they asked the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit to handle the device and to use their bomb-sniffing dog to clear the area to make sure there were no other devices. The FBI and ATF were also contacted.
"The device was successfully and safely removed from the lot without incident or injury. The investigation into the devices' owner is ongoing and will be handled jointly by the Washington County Sheriff's Office, state and federal law enforcement partners," Jacobsen said.
While they don’t have a definite suspect with this device at his time, a document was filed with the courts Monday requesting an order of fingerprinting for Culp in the arson case.
The sheriff’s department verified Tuesday evening that the State Fire Marshal’s Office has taken over the investigation of the pipe bomb at this time.