Oct 25, 2011 7:43 PM by Trovette Tottress
DENVER (AP) - A federal grand jury has indicted a man on charges that he started a fire near the U.S. Air Force Academy on the Pike National Forest this summer, the U.S. attorney's office said Tuesday.
Michael Anthony Penn, 22, is due to be arraigned Thursday on charges of setting timber afire and damaging U.S. property by fire. He had been arrested in Las Vegas and was transferred to Denver, where he made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday without an attorney.
More than 100 people fought the fire that burned about 60 acres on Aug. 19. Investigators later found a suspicious vehicle with Georgia license plates near the scene that was registered to Penn's girlfriend, prosecutors said. Unrelated witnesses reported seeing Penn in the area around the time, including a woman who said Penn came to her house, told her he had gotten lost hiking in the woods for a couple of days and needed water, the affidavit said. When investigators went to question him, they allegedly found soot marks and burn holes on his clothes, the affidavit said. Penn repeated he had been lost in the woods for three days and was taken to a hospital.
Later Penn told an investigator he was visiting Colorado because he loved nature and had been living in a Denver area hotel for the past several weeks. He made claims of illness or confusion when investigators questioned him about inconsistencies in his statements, the affidavit said. Penn had been arrested by Lakewood police Aug. 16 on charges of shoplifting and eluding police on foot, the U.S. attorney's office said. He bonded out Aug. 17, two days before the fire, the affidavit said.
A document found with his birth certificate in a burned backpack that was recovered from the fire area indicated he was discharged from the military. The affidavit didn't include details of the discharge document.