Man’s smoldering jeans lead to his felony arrest for burning neighbor's fields

Charles Cole. Ozark County Jail photo.

Charles D. Cole, 62, of Theodosia, is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 28 before Associate Circuit Judge Cynthia MacPherson on a felony charge of knowingly burning, a class E felony. The charges stem from a July 9 incident in which Cole is alleged to have set fire to a neighbor’s property because he thought the neighbor had sold to someone else some land that Cole wanted to buy. 

Cole is currently in the Missouri Department of Corrections on a parole violation on another case that stemmed from his reported intoxication and his arrest in this case. 

According to the probable cause statement filed by Ozark County Deputy Justin Urich, a man called the sheriff’s office on July 9 and said he saw Cole setting fire to a neighbor’s field on County Road 905. The dispatcher told Urich the sheriff’s office had also received a report that Cole was seen driving a logging truck erratically up and down several county roads in a possibly intoxicated state. 

When Urich arrived on the scene of the reported field fire, a white logging truck was parked in the middle of the private dirt road that led to the part of the field that was burned. Urich said in his report that the truck was blocking area fire departments from accessing the fire. 

In an adjacent field, Urich located the man who had reported the fire; the man told Urich another neighbor had called him and told him his property was on fire and that he had called the sheriff’s office when he noticed it.  

The neighbor said while he was waiting on the fire department to arrive, Cole walked out of the nearby woods and asked why he had set fire to the field. The neighbor told Cole he didn’t set the fire and he thought whoever had set fire to the field “was stupid” because the conditions were too dry to do any burning.

Cole reportedly told the neighbor he had actually set fire to the property while burning cedar tops, the statement says; then he reportedly told the neighbor “it all needs to burn.”

Cole told the neighbor to put his cows on his (Cole’s) land, so he could burn it all. Cole then reportedly walked back into the woods and began starting more fires. 

The reporting party said that Cole had been at his house earlier and was upset because he thought another neighbor had purchased a piece of property. The reporting party said his father reportedly told him Cole said he would buy the property himself before he would let the other neighbor buy it, and if the neighbor did buy it, he would burn it to the ground. 

A few hours later, the property was on fire, the statement says. The property had not been sold, and the owner said he was going to “take a hit” because he had planned to rely on grass in the burned field to help feed his cows this winter. 

The neighbor said this was not the first time Cole had threatened to set fire to his property. He reportedly told the officers that Cole had physically threatened harm to him, his family and his property recently. Urich wrote in his report that the threats were confirmed by other neighbors who had also been threatened, as well as from reports made to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office. 

Urich found Cole near his logging truck wearing work boots, no shirt and smoldering black jeans, the report says. The officer took a bottle of water and dumped it on Cole to extinguish the burning jeans. Cole was arrested and was taken to the Ozark County Jail, where he consented to an alcohol breath test. The test indicated that Cole’s blood alcohol content was .08 percent. 

Cole was on parole for another offense involving violence and alcohol, the report says, and consuming alcohol is a violation of the parole in that case. He was taken to the Missouri Department of Corrections for that parole violation. When he is released from DOC, Cole will be transported back to Ozark County, where he will be held on a $25,000 cash-only bond and will face the charge in this case. 

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423