Hope Police Department investigators were confident this morning that they have resolved three major arson fires which destroyed two former industrial buildings and heavily damaged a City park facility.
HPD Assistant Chief Kim Tomlin said this morning that the arrest May 2 of Charles Hawthorne, 18, on three separate counts of arson and five counts of commercial burglary, one count of residential burglary, and one count of criminal mischief remains under investigation.
“They are still investigating because there are so many charges involved,” Tomlin said. “We feel like we have solved them; but, we're still working on a bunch of that.”
Hawthorne was arrested in connection with the May 2 arson at the Northside Community Park Center, which heavily damaged the front rooms and roof structure of the building. The City of Hope has offered a $1,000 reward in connection with the investigation, which Tomlin said this morning remains open.
“No reward has been awarded at this time; that is not to say that it won't happen, but, at this point, there has been no award,” she said.
The reward was initially offered as a $500 reward shortly after the fire at the park was determined to have been an arson. The reward was boosted by the City in March to $1,000.
Hope City Manager Catherine Cook has said that preliminary estimates of the damage to the recreational center show significant loss of structural integrity in the roof at the front of the building. An initial insurance award of some $38,000 is insufficient to repair the damage, Cook has said. An engineer and contractor are currently determining how extensive the damage has been and how much of the roof's support structure must be replaced.
Hawthorne has also been arrest in connection with the March 5 arson fire that destroyed the former Fink and Co. building in downtown Hope.
Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton said at the time of the fire that arson was a likely cause since the building was not in use and had no electrical or gas utility services connected.
The building had been used for a number of years by Fink and Co. as its manufacturing facility for jigsaw puzzles, which it sold worldwide. The structure had originally been constructed in the 1940s to house the Shanhouse Co. clothing manufacturing business, but it had been vacant for several years after Fink and Co. discontinued operations, and the building remained in an estate.
Hawthorne is also being held, pending a first judicial appearance, in connection with the Dec. 11, 2012, arson fire which destroyed a large section of the historic Bruner-Ivory Handle Mill on North Hazel Street.
The factory was also the scene of a May, 2007, arson fire which has never produced any criminal charges, according to Hope police.
Some of the oldest parts of the historic business were destroyed in the 2012 fire, according to Glanton.
Page 2 of 2 - Hawthorne is also charged in connection with commercial burglaries in a Jan. 29 break-in at the Northside Park Community Center, as well as in three instances of commercial burglary and theft of property at Garland Learning Center in February, a February residential burglary, a commercial burglary and theft of property at the Ladycat Field concession stand in April, as well as a first degree criminal mischief allegation from a second break-in at the Ladycat Field concession stand later in April.