Man accused of setting apartment on fire to remain in jail

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A disturbing scene unraveled last week when a fire destroyed several peoples homes at a northeast apartment complex. 

Now, we’re learning more about the man police say set the apartment on fire and whether he’s too dangerous to be released from jail.

“This behavior in this matter was extraordinarily reckless and dangerous and put the lives of a number of people at risk,” said Second Judicial District Court Judge Bruce Fox. 

On Monday, a district court judge ruled Ricardo Veleta-Hernandez is too dangerous to be let out of jail. 

“The state’s motion is granted, and it will be held with no bond,” said Fox. 

Hernandez is accused of setting an apartment complex on fire while people were inside last Tuesday, causing massive damage to the property.

“Damage done to the apartment complex came out to a total of about $150,000, which left four apartment units completely unlivable, and the entire roof of the building needing to be completely replaced,” said the state prosecutor. 

The prosecutor also brought up the suspect’s past:

“Your honor, while the defendant does not have the lengthiest criminal history, there is an escalating trend here. The defendant has further shown that he cannot comply with conditions of release by failing to appear for long periods of time, completely leaving cases to linger for multiple years, and having to be brought in by warrants to actually have those cases dismissed.” 

Court documents reveal Hernandez had a few run-ins with the law. But one major factor the judge took into account was the suspect’s track record with drugs. 

“There were some allegations that DWI and also allegations that the defendant had fentanyl present,” said Fox. 

Prosecutors claim the fire happened as a result of a drug dispute between a man who lived at the apartment, and a woman he met the night before. 

“She had begun asking him for fentanyl when he indicated to her he did not do fentanyl. He said she began to go crazy, said she was going to get her ex-boyfriend and that they would come back,” said the prosecutor. “By all accounts, this is a person who had no connection to these people and instead broke into their apartment, randomly after one of them refused to give them potentially connected to him drugs, and decided that the appropriate reaction was lighting the apartment on fire.”

On the other side, an attorney representing Hernandez argued the criminal complaint from police doesn’t add up.

“It doesn’t make sense. An unknown female he invites to his home and then there’s some kind of fight about drugs, and then she does get her ex-boyfriend to show up, who is there but doesn’t identify their relationship? This story doesn’t add up,” said the defense attorney.

Ultimately, the judge sided with prosecutors, keeping Hernandez behind bars.

Hernandez is facing multiple charges including arson, criminal damage to a property, and breaking and entering.