Park arson suspect to stand trial

Written by Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat April 03, 2013 11:08 am

A Tuolumne County man will stand trial May 29 for allegedly burning down a restaurant in Columbia State Historic Park. 

Daenon Vincent Brewer, 22, again pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of arson and misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of opiates at his re-arraignment in Tuolumne County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Brewer’s three-day trial follows the rejection of a plea deal he accepted in January.

He was scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 11 after taking the offer from the District Attorney’s Office.

However, prosecutors learned that damage to the Columbia House Restaurant totaled nearly $1 million — far greater than the initial estimate of $250,000 — and filed a motion to reject the deal. Judge Eric DuTemple granted the motion, and a preliminary hearing was held March 22. 

Brewer was arrested Dec. 30 at State and Main streets in Columbia about 6:34 p.m., roughly 10 minutes after Cal Fire received multiple reports of a fire at the Columbia House Restaurant. 

Neil Evans, of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, was enroute to Columbia when the fire started. He was dispatched about 6:22 p.m. after the Sheriff’s Office received a call from the City Hotel manager stating that Brewer was causing a disturbance.

The manager told Evans that Brewer became belligerent when she didn’t give him a cigarette. She later identified Brewer as the alleged arsonist. 

Brewer, who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury since he was hit by a car in 2010, told Evans he didn’t start the fire and caused a disturbance to notify people about it.

Fire investigators concluded that arson was the cause and identified a live Christmas tree inside the restaurant as the origin.

Fire officials estimated that 75 percent of the structure was destroyed, but reported no injuries. 

The fire was contained at 8:02 p.m. and completely extinguished at 10:08 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Brewer is held at the Tuolumne County Jail on $100,000 bail.