VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER ARRESTED IN DAIRY ARSONS

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER ARRESTED IN DAIRY ARSONS

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department has arrested Jonathon Morales, 20, of Mesquite, who is charged with three third-degree felony charges of arson, as well as several counts of attempted arson, all related to a series of fires that were reported in the early morning hours of April 17 at three separate dairies off of Stern Drive south of Las Cruces.

Morales is a member of the Mesquite Volunteer Fire Department. Investigators are questioning him to determine a possible motive. Damage from the fires has been preliminarily assessed at $120,000, most of which is related to dairy feed.

The fires were reported about 1:30 a.m. and were brought under control shortly thereafter. Dairy employees provided investigators with suspect information and a vehicle description, which led to Morales’ arrest later in the morning.

In addition to stacks of hay, investigators found gasoline-soaked rags that had been stuffed into the fuel tanks of several dairy vehicles and lit. Those fires were put out before the vehicles burned.

The dairies affected were the Bright Star Dairy, the Dominguez Dairy and the Gonzales Dairy. Investigators are working with owners, managers and dairy employees to complete damage assessments and to determine whether there is any linkage to other suspicious dairy fires that occurred in late March.

The Doña Ana County Fire Marshal's Office is assisting with the investigation.

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229.