SEBRING When during March and May someone set two vehicles on fire outside a downtown bar, the same Sebring man was seen videotaping the blaze with his cell phone in both instances, arrest reports state.
And further investigation disclosed that the same man was suspected last year of attempting to set a house on fire, arrest reports said.
The suspect in all the cases, Jason Brandon Wagner, 32, 517 S. Pine St., Sebring, was arrested Thursday by the Sebring Police Department and charged with two counts of arson, one count of attempted arson, two counts of burglary of a conveyance and one count of burglary of a structure.
Wagner also was convicted in 2008 of arson, the arrest report said.
Sebring Police Cmdr. Steve Carr said the investigation continues.
“We are going through our case history and researching our arson cases and taking a second look at unsolved cases,” Carr said.
In the cases that led to the arrest, the first in 2012 involved a property owner who declined to press charges against Wagner. But, because of the later charges, police pressed for charges in that case, as well, Carr said.
In the 2012 case, police arrived at 1622 Dinner Lake Drive in Sebring after receiving reports about a suspicious incident involving a skinny man walking around the house and knocking on the door, the arrest report said.
Police located the man, determined to be Wagner, and he told them he was checking on a family friend’s residence.
As officers checked the residence and smelled something burning they entered it and “discovered all of the burners to the stove (were) turned on and the oven had been set to broil with several items inside (i.e. a paper towel, a can of oatmeal, a plastic drink cup and a bag,” the arrest report said.
When officers confronted Wagner about the situation, he offered several stories, but later denied entering the residence. But on May 2, 2013, Wagner confessed to several incidents, including the one involving the house. He told police he intended to set a fire because the owner of the house owed him money, but he changed his mind and called the police, the report said.
The other two fires that led to charges occurred at The Yogi Bar, 536 N. Ridgewood Drive, Sebring. A man reported on March 28 that as he left and got into his vehicle he saw the driver’s seat was on fire, the report said.
In regards to the second fire on May 1, a man reported that he was having drinks with his girlfriend when someone came in the bar and said a truck was on fire. It turned out to be his vehicle, the report said.
Officers noticed Wagner videotaping the fire and learned he had done the same during the fire in March, the report said.
An officer asked Wagner for identification and he “spontaneously stated,
‘I did not start that fire,”’ the report said.
Wagner subsequently admitted to setting the fire, the report said.
He was being held in Highlands County jail on $280,000 bond as of press time.