Man torches parents’ house, turns himself in to authorities

Police, Mental Health believe suspect has mental crisis

Firefighters break into the Cruz home to get at some stubborn hot spots.

Photo by Roger Harnack
Firefighters break into the Cruz home to get at some stubborn hot spots.


A firefighter sends debris flying as he hoses down hot spots late during the arson fire in rural Grandview Monday afternoon. Several fire stations and 23 firefighters answered the call.

— Reportedly angry over a long-ago incident, a 29-year-old man allegedly torched his parents home Monday afternoon and turned himself in to police.

So far, he is being handled as a mental case and has been placed in jail partially for his own safety.

Captain George Saenz of Yakima County Fire District No. 5 Grandview Station received the report of the fire at 1:29 p.m.

Firefighters arrived at 760 Willoughby Road to find flames venting from front and side windows of a residence owned and occupied by Rafael and Maria Cruz.

The fire was under control by 2:22 p.m. But the building was destroyed, Saenz said, with a value loss of $75,000.

Saenz said the area of the home that sustained the most damage was the kitchen and living room. No one was home at the time of the fire, and it was reported by a passerby, he said.

At about 7:20 p.m., according to Yakima County Superior Court records, Joel Cruz, 29, walked into the police station and admitted starting the fire.

Cruz spoke with Officer Rubalcava, the charging document shows. Rubalcava confirmed there was a fire at 760 Willoughby, then called the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office. The incident had occurred in unincorporated Yakima County.

Deputy A Klise, who wrote the charging narrative, said Cruz started speaking to him as soon as he arrived. He wrote that Cruz blurted out that he had started the fire at his parents’ residence.

Klise said he stopped Cruz and had him sit in the interview room while he spoke with Rubalcava. When Klise went back to Cruz, he advised him that he was the suspect in an arson investigation, the record shows.

According to the court record, Klise advised Cruz of his Miranda rights, and Cruz waived them in favor of speaking.

Cruz told Klise he became angry over an incident involving his brother 10 years ago, the record shows.

The record shows Cruz told Klise that his parents went on vacation, leaving him alone. He told Klise he started the fire in the kitchen with a pot of cooking oil on the stove, the charging document shows.

Cruz started saying things and speaking in ways that caused Klise to believe he may have mental problems.

The record shows that Cruz said he was reincarnated,

originally born in the 1700s, hears voices and was thinking about killing himself.

Klise wrote that Cruz was taken into protective custody and transported to Comprehensive Mental Health before being booked into the county jail.

After evaluation, Klise wrote, mental health advised that Cruz suffers from some sort of psychosis and suggested he be admitted to a state mental hospital for further evaluation.

There are no empty beds anywhere in the state system, Mental Health told Klise. Mental health advised that Cruz be incarcerated as a danger to himself and society, the record shows.


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