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Porter pleads not guilty to starting fire at O'Haire Motor Inn - KRTV.com | Great Falls, Montana

Porter pleads not guilty to starting fire at O'Haire Motor Inn

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Porter in court on April 20 Porter in court on April 20
Sip N Dip Lounge and O'Haire Motor Inn Sip N Dip Lounge and O'Haire Motor Inn
Jeremy Porter is facing arson and theft charges in connection with Tuesday night's fire in the parking garage of the O'Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls. Jeremy Porter is facing arson and theft charges in connection with Tuesday night's fire in the parking garage of the O'Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls.
GREAT FALLS -

Jeremy Porter, facing arson and theft charges in connection with a fire in the parking garage of the O'Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls, pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

The fire broke out in a van in the lower-level parking area of the O'Haire Motor Inn at about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21st. All hotel and bar customers and employees safely evacuated, and there were no injuries.

Witnesses told police that before the fire, they saw a man pulling boxes from the van, and then slam the door of the van. The man then got into a car and drove away "pretty fast." About 30 seconds later, a witness said she saw flames coming from the van, and she alerted hotel staff and called 911.

Porter initially denied having anything to do with the theft from the van, but later confessed to taking the items because of a drug debt.

Porter denied setting the van on fire, claiming that it was another man, but gave "several different stories" about the man.

At the time of his arrest, Porter was on probation. He has convictions in Toole County for theft, accountability for burglary, accountability for theft, accountability for criminal mischief, and issuing a bad check.

Porter has been charged with four felony counts of arson and one count of felony theft.

Prosecutors requested that bond for Porter be set at $50,000, noting his criminal record and his "inability to follow court-imposed conditions of release."

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(MARCH 23, 2017) Jeremy Porter is facing arson and theft charges in connection with Tuesday night's fire in the parking garage of the O'Haire Motor Inn in Great Falls.

Porter was arrested at around 8 a.m. on Wednesday at the Alberta Motel on Central Avenue West.

The fire broke out in a van in the lower-level parking area of the O'Haire Motor Inn at about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday. All hotel and bar customers and employees safely evacuated, and there were no injuries.

Witnesses saw a man pulling boxes from the van, and then slam the door of the van. The man then got into a car and drove away "pretty fast."

About 30 seconds later, a witness said she saw flames coming from the van, and she alerted hotel staff and called 911.

Court documents state that a witness saw the suspect wipe the back doors of the van with his sleeve. The witness then described hearing a "whooshing" sound, which was described as when you "used lighter fluid on a campfire."

The witness was able to provide police with a partial license plate number of the car that drove away from the fire, and a description of the suspect.

Surveillance video from the hotel shows that the suspect was the only occupant of the suspicious vehicle, and that it appeared that there were boxes inside the vehicle that were not there when he pulled in to the parking lot.

The van is owned by a reprographics company, and the owner told police that property was missing from the van, and estimated that each box contained items valued at $2,000.

Police officers found the suspect vehicle at the Alberta Motel on Central Avenue West; a witness told the officers that they had seen someone taking property from the vehicle into one of the motel rooms.

Officers saw a box on a table outside one of the motel rooms; the box was labeled with the name of the company that owns the van.

The officers could see people moving around inside the motel room, and tried to contact the occupants, but the occupants refused to answer the door.

After obtaining a search warrant, officers found Porter in the motel room.

Court documents state that property from the van was located throughout the motel room.

Porter initially denied having anything to do with the theft from the van, but later confessed to taking the items because of a drug debt.

Porter denied setting the van on fire, claiming that it was another man, but gave "several different stories" about the man.

At the time of his arrest, Porter was on probation. He has convictions in Toole County for theft, accountability for burglary, accountability for theft, accountability for criminal mischief, and issuing a bad check.

Porter has been charged with four felony counts of arson and one count of felony theft.

Prosecutors requested that bond for Porter be set at $50,000, noting his criminal record and his "inability to follow court-imposed conditions of release."

The amount of damage to the O'Haire Motor Inn has not yet been determined.

The O'Haire Motor Inn, and the Sip 'N Dip Lounge, and Clark & Lewie's Restaurant inside the hotel, remain closed as clean-up continues; the hotel posted the following message on Facebook on Wednesday: "We will reopen Clark and Lewie's at 11am on Friday, the Sip 'n Dip Great Falls will reopen at 4pm on Friday. The Inn will house overnight guests again Friday night."

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