Suspected arsonist accused of setting vehicle on fire after disagreement over a dog

A suspected arsonist, who got into a disagreement with another man over a dog, allegedly set the man’s vehicle on fire, caught his own shirt on fire, then fled the scene and later attempted to flee from officers who were looking for him.

James Ray Holtsclaw Jr.

James Ray Holtsclaw Jr.

James Ray Holtsclaw, Jr., 24, was arrested last Wednesday afternoon, April 10, by Officer Ryan Van Horn of the Jasonville Police Department. Holtsclaw’s home address in jail and court records was Winter Haven, Florida, but this incident took place in Jasonville with several JPD officers assisting in the investigation.

It began when JPD Officer Andrew Duguay responded early last Wednesday to a report of a vehicle fire on South Park Avenue, a red 2006 Jeep Commander valued in excess of $5,000. When he arrived, the fire had been extinguished but JPD Officer Brian Pilant was there and said the front passenger area and the area around the rear passenger-side tire were burning when he got there. Pilant also said a neighbor had witnessed a man fleeing the scene.

When Officer Duguay talked to the neighbor, the neighbor said he heard a noise, went outside and saw a man in dark clothes riding a bicycle away from the fire. He said the man’s shirt was on fire and the suspect was hitting his own chest, trying to put the fire out.

When Officer Duguay talked to the owner of the vehicle, he said Holtsclaw had come to his house back on Thursday, April 4, to try to get a dog back that had been given to him (the vehicle owner) by someone else. The man said Holtsclaw became agitated and said “If I don’t get the dog, it’s not gonna go well for you.” When the man went back into his house, Holtsclaw followed so the man grabbed his gun to defend himself, then punched Holtsclaw in the mouth and told him to get out. Holtsclaw left the home, then stood at the road and continued to argue but left after the man said he was going to call police.

Duguay then tried to locate Holtsclaw, first going to a house on South Washington Street where Holtsclaw was staying. A woman there told Duguay that Holtsclaw had come in, turned off lights and told her not to answer the door if cops showed up. She said she asked him several times what he had done and he first said he hadn’t done anything then said a guy had pointed a gun at him so he set his vehicle on fire. She said Holtsclaw had a rag on his hand, had changed clothes and put the clothes he’d been wearing in the washer, made a phone call then left.

When he visited another residence, a woman said Holtsclaw had called but she told him she wouldn’t let him in and she ignored his subsequent phone calls.

Duguay then made contact with the owner of the South Washington Street house who said he let Holtsclaw live there because he was homeless. He thought Holtsclaw was from Indianapolis. He didn’t know Holtsclaw’s last name but said he knew him as “Little Jimmy.”

A records check showed Holtsclaw was not in BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) files.

When Duguay met with Indiana State Fire Marshal Josh Kreigh at 1:30 that afternoon, they examined the vehicle which by that time was secured in the impound lot of Recovery Plus. Kreigh told Duguay he believed the fire was intentionally set due to there being two separate points of origin. He also found a burnt piece of cloth on top of the vehicle, which was taken into evidence.

While Duguay was investigating the fire, other JPD officers were also attempting to locate Holtsclaw.

Around 11:10 a.m. that same day, JPD Chief James Gadberry and Officer Ryan Van Horn also visited the South Washington Street house and when Gadberry knocked on the front door, Van Horn went around to the south side of the house so he could see the back door. Van Horn said they could hear movement inside the house after Gadberry knocked.

Officer Van Horn reported that the owner of the residence came to the door and said Holtsclaw wasn’t there. When Gadberry asked for permission to go inside and check, the man closed the door, then locked it. A few seconds later, Van Horn saw Holtsclaw exit through the back door.

Van Horn reported he ordered Holtsclaw to stop, but he didn’t and began running northbound through a neighbor’s yard. Van Horn deployed his Taser and Holtsclaw was then taken into custody.

Two criminal cases have since been filed against Holtsclaw.

One case was filed last Thursday in Greene Superior Court on a preliminary charge of resisting law enforcement – knowingly or intentionally flees from law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.

Another case was filed on Friday in Greene Circuit Court on a preliminary charge of arson, a Level 4 felony.

In the arson case, the court set Holtsclaw’s bond at $15,000 cash only with no ten percent allowed.