A Medford man was in the Jackson County Jail Monday night after he allegedly set fire to his estranged wife's home and then, hoping to get her arrested, told police that she and another man had assaulted him.
Louis Darnell Walls, 47, of the 400 block of North Phoenix Road, was arrested Sunday on three counts of first-degree arson and charges of initiating a false report and violating a no-contact order, which landed him in contempt of court. He was being held late Monday on $25,000 bail.
Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak said officers were called to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center just after 8 a.m. Sunday for a reported assault. Walls reported that his estranged wife and a male accomplice had assaulted him early that morning.
"He did have an injury, but it was a prior injury that they had nothing to do with," Mak said, adding police did not know that when they first interviewed him.
About 20 minutes later, a fire was reported at an apartment complex in the 2300 block of East Barnett Road. Medford Fire-Rescue sent one engine, as there were reports the small blaze already was starting to wane. It was out by the time crews arrived on scene.
"It was a pile of trash that was pushed up against the building and lit on fire," acting Fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe, of Medford Fire-Rescue, said Monday. "It actually kind of fizzled out on its own. It self-extinguished without anybody doing anything."
Fire officials said the fire caused minimal damage to the side of the building, with only a small scorch mark that probably could be painted over. No one was hurt.
Walls' estranged wife lives at the apartment where the fire started, police said. She told investigators she had a valid restraining order against Walls and suspected him of setting the fire. She and two friends had been in the apartment at the time the fire started, police said. Three counts of arson were charged because three people were in the building, Mak said.
After interviewing Walls again, detectives arrested him on suspicion of setting the fire outside the apartment and violating his no-contact order.
"He tried to start it from the outside," Mak said.
Investigators also allege Walls made the false assault report in hopes his estranged wife would be arrested.
First-degree arson is a class A felony under Oregon law, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $375,000 in fines.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.