Alleged arsonist faces four felony charges stemming from Ridge fire

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— The next time Matthew John Hoffman will appear in a Routt County Courtroom, he will enter a plea regarding an arson, burglary and thefts he has confessed to police he committed.
The 19-year-old Warren, Ohio, man appeared in Routt County Judge James Garrecht's courtroom Wednesday afternoon and waived his right to have a preliminary hearing.
With the waiver, Hoffman has been bound over to be arraigned in District Court in front of Judge Joel S. Thompson. The arraignment is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 13.
During the court proceeding, Hoffman will enter a plea to charges stemming from a fire he allegedly set Aug. 28 at a townhouse at The Ridge to cover up a burglary. He also allegedly stole a vehicle and two signs that welcome visitors to the city.
Hoffman faces four felonies: first-degree arson, second-degree burglary, aggravated motor vehicle theft and theft.
Bond for Hoffman has been set at $35,000.
It is likely Hoffman will stay in the custody of the Routt County Sheriff's Office as his case proceeds through the justice system, said Norm Townsend, a public defender who has been assigned to the case.
"It is unlikely he will be able to bond out," Townsend said.
Hoffman was arrested by Steamboat Springs police Sept. 26 after he agreed to travel from Ohio to talk to police about the welcome signs, worth $5,000 each, that were found in his former apartment at the D Bar K Motel, 35495 U.S. 40.
According to a court file, Hoffman confessed to police he set the fire at the townhome and stole the signs.
The fire set in the early morning hours of Aug. 28 destroyed two townhouses and damaged eight others. The fire caused authorities to evacuate 16 people staying at The Ridge. He allegedly set fire to the home in the eight-unit building to cover up a burglary he allegedly committed the day before.
After allegedly committing the burglary, he allegedly stole a Chevrolet Suburban belonging to the unit's owner. He allegedly put stolen goods in the vehicle and drove it to a parking lot at the Clocktower. The vehicle was recovered by police the day of the fire.
Authorities suspected Hoffman might be linked to the arson and the vehicle theft because he had access to the townhome through his prior place of employment.
Hoffman allegedly obtained keys to the townhome and the Suburban while he was installing a garbage disposal in the unit.
Police were able to track down Hoffman because the signs that were stolen in July were recovered by police Sept. 7 in his apartment. Workers at the D Bark K found the signs and called authorities.

To reach Gary E. Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail gsalazar@amigo.net

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