CRIME

Murder-arson suspect arrested; bail set at $1 million

Police accuse suspect of murdering his stepfather

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On July 25 in Rainier, a 58-year-old man was killed in a house fire. Now, detectives say that fire was intentionally started, and authorities arrested a Tumwater resident yesterday.

Jamie Montalvo Martinez, 27, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree arson. He’s being held in the Thurston County jail on $1 million bail.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the day of the fire, Montalvo Martinez had been seen “acting strange” at Fred Meyer in Lacey, telling people there that strangers were following him. Police contacted his mother, who took Montalvo Martinez to stay with his stepfather, Gabriel Ayala, in the 900 block of Tipsoo Loop Southeast in Rainier.

Later, just past midnight, authorities responded to Ayala’s house trailer, which was engulfed in flame. Montalvo Martinez had stayed the night, and he made it out of the trailer safely, as well as a third individual that stayed there that night. Ayala was found dead inside. An autopsy determined he died of smoke inhalation.

Court documents indicate Montalvo Martinez and the trailer’s other resident provided contradictory interviews to police. Montalvo Martinez said he broke a window to escape, and then broke another window to help the other survivor escape. The other survivor, however, said they made it outside without Montalvo Martinez’s help.

Montalvo Martinez said he was asleep in his room, when we woke up to the smell of smoke before he escaped.

A K-9 unit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went to the site of the fire, and indicated that accelerants were used to start the fire. An investigation by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and Lacey Fire District 3 determined the fire was intentionally set. The clothes Montalvo Martinez was wearing that evening were sent to the Washington State Patrol crime lab. Tests noted the presence of gasoline on the clothes, according to court documents.

After the lab results were returned, authorities found and arrested Montalvo Martinez at 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to a sheriff’s office press release.

A call to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office seeking additional comment was not immediately returned.

During a hearing in Thurston County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, Judge John Skinder ordered Montalvo Martinez be held on $1 million bail. That was the amount requested by Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson. Meanwhile, public defender Danielle Walker requested the bail amount be $5,000, saying Montalvo Martinez didn’t have the resources to post bail, and therefore would likely be stuck in jail for an extended period of time, since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an extensive backlog in criminal cases.

Skinder noted that the allegations against Montalvo Martinez are “of the most serious” variety. He said the allegations represented a threat to public safety and that Montalvo Martinez had a criminal history that indicated he might not return to court if he were to post bail.  

Montalvo Martinez’s mother spoke at the hearing, saying her son suffers from mental health issues.

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