Hurricane Evacuee Arrested for Provo Arson

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    By John Hyde

    An evacuee of Hurricane Katrina was booked in the Utah County Jail Sunday, Feb. 25, 2006, for allegedly setting fire to the apartment building he was evicted from, leaving many without homes and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

    Herbert Samuel Landry, 46, had lived off and on in the Shadowood Apartments since September 2005, his rent paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. After receiving his second eviction notice and two days out of the Utah County Jail on drug charges, Landry allegedly poured a flammable liquid on the floor of his back room and ignited it.

    Several witnesses noticed smoke as they saw Landry leaving the apartment building, including BYU students and next-door-neighbors Matthew and Britney Mendel, who called 911 and tried to put out flames with a fire extinguisher.

    Landry later showed up to the scene, asking a KSL-TV news crew what was happening. Police at the scene recognized the man they were already looking for, and took Landry into custody.

    Based on witness reports and comments made by Landry, the police obtained a search warrant and found conclusive evidence that Landry “knowingly and intentionally unlawfully damaged a habitable structure by fire,” an investigator stated in the police report.

    Police used a dog to sniff combustible fluids, which it found on Landry”s clothing and in the bedroom where the fire was started, said Det. Drew Hubbard of the Provo Police Department.

    Although Landry has not admitted to the crimes, Provo Fire Chief Coy Porter said the police are “quite certain” they have the right man.

    Fourth District Judge Lynn W. Davis set bail at $500,000.

    While Landry has a criminal record in Louisiana – he had been arrested for criminal trespassing and possession of crack – and having been arrested in Provo for charges of possession of methamphetamine this month, Landry”s arrest for arson came as a surprise to both neighbors and apartment managers.

    “He was a suspicious fellow,” said Matthew Mendel, “but he was always candid and pleasant.”

    Mendel”s wife said she often felt threatened by an influx of people at Landry”s next-door apartment, people she thought were buying drugs.

    But she said the arrest” I never thought [Landry] would stoop to do something like this.”

    The other two Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in the Shadowood Apartments have caused no problems, said Jeff Sucher, the property manager.

    Sucher said they are still assessing the damage of the apartment building, but that due to water damage much of it will have to be rebuilt.

    “We”re just going to rebuild and try to make the community a better place to be,” Sucher said.

    (For comments, e-mail John Hyde at )

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