BILLINGS – A man from Lodge Grass accused of setting fire to an occupied house on the Crow Indian Reservation admitted to the charges on Friday, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Travis Rusty Wallace, 18, pleaded guilty to arson, as charged in an indictment. A press release says Wallace faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, a fine of $ 250,000 and five years of supervised release.
US magistrate judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Wallace has been released pending further trial. 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 at Lodge Grass when he smelled smoke. He entered his room and saw that the curtains were on fire. While putting out the flames, he saw that Wallace was in the back yard running away from the house.
After extinguishing the fire, Wallace left the residence for about an hour and a half. While Doe was gone, her roommate came home from work and fell asleep in a back bedroom. A smoke detector woke the roommate, who ran down the hall and saw Doe’s room engulfed in flames.
The roommate ran out the back door and allegedly saw Wallace drop a gas can onto the lawn and walk away. A neighbor saw Wallace walking around the neighborhood in front of Doe’s house several times before the fires started.
The government further alleged that Wallace denied setting the fire and consenting to have his clothes taken. The Fire Marshal determined that the fire had been started with gasoline, and a scan found gasoline on Wallace’s clothing.
Assistant US Attorney Lori Suek is pursuing the case, which has been investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.