KEARNEY — Witnesses have identified a Kearney man as the suspect who used road flares to allegedly start a fire at a Kearney mobile home park in February.
Shane A. Travis, 44, is charged in Buffalo County Court with felony first-degree arson in the Feb. 2 fire at Countryside Trailer Court No. 98 that resulted in the house being uninhabitable. He was arrested Friday on a warrant.
At 3:50 a.m. Feb. 2, the Kearney Volunteer Fire Department was called to 1920 W. 15th St. No. 98 for a structure fire. When firefighters arrived they found a neighbor using a hose to try to extinguish a couch on fire outside against trailer No. 98. The fire spread up the outside wall of the house before being extinguished by firefighters.
One man and two women at house were alerted of the fire by the neighbor and escaped without injuries.
The night before the fire, court records say, Travis and his then-girlfriend had a fight at their house at Countryside Trailer Court. She went to trailer No. 98, which made him mad.
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Early the following morning, a witness told police she saw Travis inside his house with a road flare and said he was going to “go check it out,” then left.
Travis ran into his house a short time later “acting like a maniac,” records say. As police and firefighters arrived at the fire scene, the witness said Travis acted scared.
Several road flares were located on the top of his bed, according to court records.
At the scene, a Nebraska Fire Marshal investigator seized a red 1 ½ -gallon gas container, a red road flare and charred material from the couch. A Kearney woman who lived at the burned house told investigators Travis had been at the house the night before with a road flare in his back pocket and hands.
Police tried to interview Travis at his house the day after the fire. As they walked to the trailer, court records say, a red road flare matching the same one seized from the fire was located on the ground at the end of his driveway.
Days after the fire, police interviewed Travis. Court records say he denied any involvement. Although he admitted to being inside trailer No. 98 the night before the fire, he denied having a road flare.
Travis did express his frustration that his girlfriend had been at that house the previous night.
Police also have a Buffalo County Jail recording of a phone conversation argument involving Travis, his then-girlfriend and the man inside trailer No. 98 at the time of the fire. Records say that three times during that conversation, Travis told the man he was dead.
In July, Travis allegedly admitted to a woman that he started the fire because he was upset his then-girlfriend was with another man. In an August protection order filed against Travis in Buffalo County District Court, his former girlfriend says Travis admitted setting fire to the trailer and knowing that she and the other man were inside.
Late this morning Travis is being held at the Buffalo County Jail on a $50,000 bond. He must post 10 percent of that amount, or $5,000, to be freed.
He is scheduled to appear in court in September.