A man pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to kill his girlfriend and setting fire to their apartment at The Galleria Apartment complex on 60th Avenue, on Monday night.
Marcus Deondrae Savage-Dewitt, 22, pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted first-degree murder and a separate count of arson of an occupied structure, according to superior court documents.
Police records state the fire at The Galleria Apartment complex was a result of arson. Savage-Dewitt told police that he wasn’t on the property when the blaze began. However, his explanation of the evening’s events doesn’t fully match his girlfriend Chelsea Maria Griffin’s account to police.
The following information on the sequence of events comes from Glendale Police Department documents.
On the night of the fire, Savage-Dewitt told Griffin he was going to take a shower. So, she headed to bed. Griffin claims she fell asleep and awoke to flames in her room. Hearing the shower still running, she tried to alert Savage-Dewitt. However, Griffin didn’t hear him respond. She tried to open the bathroom door but it was locked.
Griffin said she tried to escape the bedroom but found the door had been tied shut with a shoestring. She told police that she managed to pull the door open enough to escape. Before exiting the apartment, she rescued her young son who was sleeping in his bedroom.
When Griffin and her son were safely outside the apartment building, she left him in the care of a neighbor and ran back into the burning building. Griffin told officials when she re-entered the apartment, she cut the shoestring that was around the bedroom doorknob. Griffin tried to alert Savage-Dewitt again but smoke forced her to leave.
Outside, Griffin spotted Savage-Dewitt walking toward the apartments and said he dropped his keys on the ground.
However, Savage-Dewitt’s side of the story was different.
Savage-Dewitt told police that he woke up, took a shower and then went to the local Circle K for an energy drink. When he left the apartment, he said he didn’t lock the door or take the keys with him. Although, he did tell police upon returning from the store, he tried to run back into the burning building to retrieve the television and PlayStation. Savage-Dewitt stated that he couldn’t get into bedroom because the door was tied shut with a string.
Fire officials later validated Griffin’s claim when they examined the apartment after the fire.
“During the course of the investigation firefighters observed a string tied around the bedroom door knob. Firefighters also observed a string tied around a nearby TV stand,” the report said.
Ron Hart, engineer and primary public information officer for Glendale Fire Department, said determining if a fire is the result of arson is a slow and methodical process.
“[Determining the cause is] kind of wrapped around science. Investigators determine the origin and cause. Did they use match, lighter, gas.’ All things that contribute to combustion are all things the investigator looks at,” Hart said.
When Police searched Savage-Dewitt on the night of the incident, they found four cigarette lighters in his pockets.
Glendale Fire Department maintains that their investigators look at all possibilities of a fire’s cause before they make the determination of arson.
“Smoke goes up, so yes, he [the investigator] will look for burn patterns, origin and cause and it can be infinite number of things,” Hart commented.
Police also checked video footage from the Circle K convenience store where Savage-Dewitt claims he was at the time of the fire. According to the police documents, their search revealed that Savage-Dewitt never visited the store that night.
Firefighters at the scene said they spotted Savage-Dewitt and Griffin arguing outside their apartment.
According to Jerry Cobb, public information officer to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the police report said that Savage-Dewitt didn’t have an argument with his girlfriend before the fire.
“Defendant told police he and Chelsea rarely fight but had arguments in the past. The last time they had an argument was over a month ago. [After the fire] they were arguing over everything that was burnt and how they were going to replace it,” Cobb said.
Savage-Dewitt’s attorney declined to comment on their client’s case.
A trial date for Savage-Dewitt has not been set.