Police use receipt to find arson suspect
A sales receipt for the purchase of a gas can recovered at the scene of a fire at the state Department of Health offices last month led to the arrest of a homeless man.
Police charged John R. Denis, 52, with first-degree criminal property damage on Saturday after officials from the Institute for Human Services recognized him from surveillance photos released by CrimeStoppers on Feb. 8.
The receipt indicated the gas can -- recovered from the scene of the Jan. 31 fire that started at the entrance of the Beretania Street building -- was purchased from Sears. Fire investigators determined the fire had been started with an ignitable liquid.
According to court documents, Sears security determined that the gas can was purchased on the same day of the fire and that surveillance cameras had captured photos of the customer.
On Feb. 17, IHS called police and reported that the male depicted in the photos was at the shelter. A detective who approached Denis at the shelter introduced himself, saying, "I want to talk to you about the Department of Health," only to be interrupted by Denis who said, "I burned it ... so what?" court documents said.
Denis made his first appearance in Honolulu District Court yesterday and is expected to appear for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Court records indicate Denis has been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the past. He also has been ordered to stay away from his elderly mother, who obtained restraining orders against him on at least three occasions since 2000 and as recently as May 2005 because of continuing harassment and threats he has made against her life.
Denis is currently being held on $15,000 bail.