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BILLINGS —A Lodge Grass man accused of setting fire to an occupied house on the Crow Indian Reservation admitted charges today, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Travis Rusty Wallace, 18, pleaded guilty to arson, as charged in an indictment. Wallace faces a maximum of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Wallace was released pending further proceedings. A sentencing date will be set.
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that on June 23, 2020, the victim, identified as John Doe, was in his residence in Lodge Grass when he smelled smoke. He went into his bedroom and saw that the curtains were on fire. While extinguishing the flames, he saw Wallace was in the back yard running from the house. After putting out the fire, Wallace left the residence for approximately an hour and a half. While Doe was gone, his roommate returned home from work and fell asleep in a back bedroom. A smoke alarm awakened the roommate, who ran into the hallway and saw that Doe’s bedroom was engulfed by flames. The roommate ran out the back door and saw Wallace drop a gas can on the lawn and drive away. A neighbor saw Wallace repeatedly driving around the neighborhood past Doe’s home before the fires were set.
The government further alleged that Wallace denied he set the fire and consented to his clothes being taken. The fire marshal determined the fire was set with gasoline, and an analysis found gasoline on Wallace’s clothes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Suek is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Clair Johnson Howard
Public Affairs Officer