Saturday, February 9, 2013

Foreclosed Homeowner Jailed On $1.5M Bond For Allegedly Torching Former Home In Blaze That Severely Injured First Responder

In Stuart, Florida, TC Palm reports:

  • A judge Friday refused to lower the $1.5 million bond that's holding a Lake Park man accused of torching a home he lost to foreclosure and critically injuring a firefighter who fought the blaze.

    Joseph Edward Haas, 47, remained at the Martin County jail after a brief appearance in court to face charges of arson, grand theft and arson resulting in injury. "I didn't burn the house down intentionally," Haas said Thursday in handcuffs as Martin County sheriff's deputies took him into custody.

    Investigators say on Dec. 27, Haas went to his former home at 1151 S.W. Blue Water Way, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. His motive, authorities have said, was to prevent anyone else from living in the western Martin County home he built that was taken by the bank in a foreclosure action.

    The blaze severely burned Martin County firefighter Jahwann McIntyre, who remains hospitalized, and injured two other firefighters.

    Chief Assistant State Prosecutor Tom Bakkedahl on Friday said given the extent of McIntyre's injuries, Haas could have faced a murder charge instead of arson. "But for the heroic efforts of two of this young man's co-workers, he was probably seconds away from losing his life and this guy (Haas) would be facing the death penalty today," Bakkedahl said. "That's how severe this case is, and we'll go forward from there."

    Haas' public defender on Friday argued that his client's bond was "excessive," but a judge declined to lower the amount.

    In court, Haas said he has lived in Martin County for nine years, but resides in Lake Park. He said he is unemployed, and his only assets are the $2.20 in his bank account and his Ford Ranger truck. Bakkedahl though, said authorities seized Haas' truck following his arrest.

    Sheriff's reports show Aaron Grosko, who lived at the torched home with Haas' daughter, told investigators Joseph Haas was upset the house was being lost in a foreclosure and that he would "burn his house down" before Haas let the bank or anyone else take it.

    Haas' former girlfriend April Finch on Friday told WPTV NewsChannel 5 she dated Haas for 8 months and they lived together at the house for months before their relationship soured. When she learned of the fire, she said her first thought was of Haas.

    "I thought of him, because he made that comment all of the time: 'If I can't have this house, nobody will,'" Finch told WPTV.

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