The investigation into an early morning fire Thursday that destroyed an apartment in Sullivan and damaged other nearby units has led to a stealing charge being filed against the tenant.
Other charges also are being sought.
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks told The Missourian on Thursday afternoon that his office filed the felony stealing a motor vehicle charge against Kevin E. Debrecht Jr., 31, after he allegedly stole a Sullivan Fire Department brush truck after fleeing his burning apartment.
Detective Cpl. Scott Briggs of the Franklin County Narcotics Unit said Debrecht had the keys to the pickup truck in his pocket when he was located.
Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner of the task force told The Missourian surveillance video shows Debrecht “in the act” of stealing the vehicle.
Bond in the case was set at $10,000.
The task force was called to the scene at about 4 a.m. to assist in the fire investigation after evidence of a suspected methamphetamine lab was found inside the apartment at 38 Dunsford St. It is believed that the meth lab exploded, causing the fire.
“The case is still under investigation,” Grellner said on Friday morning. “But we believe the fire was caused by the manufacturing of methamphetamine in a one-pot bottle. The bottle got out of hand and caught the apartment on fire.”
The fire was called in to 911 at 2:59 a.m. Sullivan Fire Chief Rich White told The Missourian that the apartment, which was part of a fourplex unit, was engulfed when firefighters first arrived at 3:08 a.m.
No one was inside the apartment when firefighters arrived, White said. It is unknown how many individuals may have been inside when the fire erupted, but Grellner said his investigation is centering on Debrecht.
“At this time, we don’t believe anyone else was involved,” Grellner said.
At the scene, task force officers found evidence of a one-pot lab, a hydrogen generator and empty boxes of pseudoephedrine pills, Briggs said.
Task force officers continued to assist fire investigators at the scene while others began searching for the suspect or suspects who had been at the apartment when the fire broke out, Briggs said.
Franklin County Arson Investigator Jim Schuhmacher also was called to the scene, and he spent several hours there going through the rubble.
On Thursday afternoon, officers located Debrecht. Before his arrest, Briggs said Debrecht refused to cooperate with authorities. During a search, officers found keys to the fire department truck in his pocket.
The brush truck was parked in the parking lot at the nearby First Community State Bank at the southeast corner of Highway 185 and Dunsford Street. The truck was reported missing at about 5 a.m. when fire personnel started to be released from the scene, Sullivan Police Department Lt. Patrick Johnson told The Missourian.
Surveillance video from the bank showed Debrecht getting into the truck and leaving the scene while behind the wheel, Grellner said.
The vehicle was found about 20 minutes later at the end of Elbert Street, which is nearby and on the north side of Highway 185. Dunsford Street connects to the highway to the south.
White said there appears to be nothing missing from the truck and that it was not damaged.
The fire originated in Unit 10 of the fourplex. A tenant in Unit 11 as well as a passing motorist called 911.
The other two units were unoccupied, White said. All four of the apartments sustained damage, and the unit where the fire originated was destroyed.
It took firefighters from Sullivan, St. Clair and Bourbon about an hour to bring the three-alarm blaze under control.
There were no injuries.
White said there were about 35 firefighters on the scene during the height of the fire.