Should a Suspected Serial Arsonist in the Devastating Clayton Fire Have Been Arrested Sooner?

Structure burning

A structure burned in Lower Lake near Main Street during the Clayton Fire last August. [Photo by Matthew Henderson–for more of his dramatic photos follow him on Facebook.]

With 16 fires set in Lake County over two years, investigators suspected they had a serial arsonist. They were watching a suspect so closely, they actually called in a fire allegedly set by him to local firefighters less than a week prior to the devastating Clayton Fire that destroyed hundreds of buildings and burned thousands of acres. They believed they knew the culprit but they waited to arrest him until they had an airtight case.

Victims of the devastating Clayton Fire say they waited much too long.

An article in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee delves deep into the investigation, 

…It was the second time in three days that they had radioed in a fire Pashilk allegedly had set.

After those fires, a prosecutor was readying a search warrant in anticipation of arresting Pashilk, but state arson investigators didn’t put him in cuffs until two days after the devastating Clayton Fire erupted.

Do you think the investigators should have nabbed the suspect sooner? Read the article here and then give us your opinion below.

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22 comments

  • According to the article, an expert with 32 years of experience on similar cases said they couldn’t have arrested him sooner. Since I have 0 years of experience, I’m going to trust what the expert says.

  • They should have had him under watch 24/7. They would have caught him in the act and been able to arrest him on the spot.
    Simple as that. The loss of pets&livestock was tremendous, and some literally escaped with their dog and the clothes on their back. If i was them i would want to see a serious reason why this guy wasnt being followed. We should all be asking that, our neighborhood could be next.

    • It is called “Monday night quarter backing”. If they acted too soon and he got off because of a technicality it would have been the investigator’s fault if the guy continued to set more fires, in this case it is the investigator’s fault because they didn’t stop him soon enough….how would you like to be in that posistion. Our criminal Justice System is user friendly for the defense. The prosecution gets one chance to present it’s evidence…the defense can continue to find evidence to make a “questionable doubt” for years after the trial. That is our system…now society makes excuses for the criminal’s actions with claims of parental up bringing, drug abuse, bullying, and even the food we eat. It is always easier to sit on the side lines after the fact and say…”this is what I would have done”. Life is full of learning experiences, we can only hope we learn not to make the same mistakes over and over.

      • So you are – what – Tuesday morning quarterbacking? Arresting his butt for one of the crimes would have prevented the much more devastating crime. Liberal California – they love to let criminals get away with murder.

  • Thanks for sharing my story, Kym!

  • They should have been at least tailing him.Thats a tough question,when folks have lost so much.Heartbreaking💔

  • Thinking allowed

    There are not enough facts in the stories as to evidence and timeline to know whether they should have made an earlier arrest. If they hadn’t enough evidence , he would have been out on bail anyway. Or worse it goes to trial and he’s acquitted.

    Of course, preparing a warrant at the point it is actually getting signed says they thought they had enough at that point. And they witnessed someone in his car maybe starting two fires. But they say couldn’t prove he was the one driving the car until they installed a camera. So it depends on how expeditiously the arson investigators acted after the warrant was signed or if preparing the warrant was lingered over after all the proof was in.

    I can thoroughly understand the anger of people about this. I hope they get answers.

  • Many times arsonists such as this are caught masturbating near the fire. I knew an arson investigator who related details of this. It`s SOP to check behind bushes, in sheds, outbuildings, etc. for the culprit busily engaged in self-gratification.

  • simple answer YES
    lots of people are arrested only to be released and not charged with anything .
    if this idiot had been arrested earlier and maybe released and then maybe re-arrested for a different fire and released cause lack of evidence then at least he would have known he being watched and maybe that clayton fire would never have happened .

    • Veterans friend

      I think you answered the question exactly right.
      So many of my CL friends were so impacted by this horrible fire…and all the other fires.
      This is one of those times when law enforcement should have stuck their neck out a little bit ….

  • The loopholes in laws and the ability of attorneys to ‘twist’ testimony and argue collection of evidence keeps law enforcement from acting when they normally would. Case in point…..Marci Kitchen. Meanwhile, criminals continue to have more rights than victims in many cases.

  • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

    I wish every grower in 500 miles is arrested and charged as co conspirators.

    Marijuana growing is behind this fire and all growers are part of it.

    Jail without bail every weed grower, create safe communities.

    Get your gateway drug out of here.

  • Your statement despite having some true premises in earlier posts leads to self-contradiction or otherwise logically unacceptable conclusions, Mr. or Mrs. c.h.u.m.p.

  • Joseph Pendleton

    I remember a few years back mendo caught an arsonist by putting GPS on his truck

  • Thinking allowed

    Having been on a jury a couple of times, I found that a lot of people will go into overdrive thinking of alternate scenarios to avoid convicting. They will take each item of evidence and offer ideas about how it could be interpreted so as to not be evidence of guilt. They will do this with everything, even to hundreds of pieces of evidence.

    So a person may appear guilty as all get out to the public in general but, when a jury member has to focus on ‘ruining’ the accused life by convicting them, you’d be surprised the level of proof needed to convict. Some of the evidence must be virtually impossible to explain away for that to happen.
    Thus proving that this man’s vehicle was at the scene when the fire started, even if it happened a half dozen times, you can be sure that a couple of people on a jury will have an idea to explain it away.

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