Whitefish Man Denies Felony Arson Charge

By Beacon Staff

A Whitefish man charged with setting his former girlfriend’s house on fire has denied the allegations of arson.

James Wallace Langley, 34, appeared in Flathead County District Court earlier this month to plead not guilty to a felony arson charge stemming from an October 2013 fire.

According to charging documents, the Whitefish Fire Department responded to an early-morning fire on Oct. 8, 2013 at a Highland Drive residence. One of the residents sleeping in the house reported waking up at about 3:10 a.m. and seeing a flash outside his window.

He looked into his yard and saw a gas can on fire, and also saw the siding of the house was on fire. He reported putting out those blazes with a fire extinguisher, and noticed a fire trail leading from the gas can to the siding of the house.

A short time later, the man saw smoke coming from the light fixtures in his home, and he extinguished embers there as well.

Responding investigators determined that the gas can belonged to the house residents, and had been in a detached garage, which had been unlocked. The gas can’s spout was found in the garage, and investigators swabbed it and the can for DNA.

The homeowners told a detective they suspected their daughter’s ex-boyfriend, Langley, had set the fire, which caused more than $1,500 damages. When the detective interviewed Langley, Langley allegedly said he had never touched the gas can and denied being involved in the fire. He also voluntarily gave a DNA sample, the detective reported.

In another interview, Langley allegedly admitted being at the victims’ house early in the morning on Oct. 8.

On Dec. 5, investigators received the DNA results from the gas can and spout from the Montana Crime Lab; the results allegedly show a match from the gas can lid and Langley. He was charged with arson on Feb. 3.

Felony arson carries a maximum 20-year prison term, and a maximum fine of $50,000. Langley has an omnibus hearing scheduled for April 9, and a pre-trial conference scheduled for April 23.

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