California professor accused of arson near the Dixie Fire

LASSEN COUNTY, Calif. (KOVR/CNN) – As the Dixie Fire continues to burn through Northern California, a college professor is accused of starting multiple fires near the area.

In a 32 page federal criminal complaint, 47-year-old Gary Maynard is charged with purposely setting the Ranch Fire in Lassen County this month.

US Forest Service agents started investigating him July 20th, the day of the Cascade Fire.

Investigators eventually placed a tracking device on his car after a witness there says they saw Maynard come from the area where the fire sparked, saying he appeared mentally unstable “mumbling a lot and having bipolar-like behavior.”

While tracking his movements, they believe he started more than two fires, explaining, “It appeared that Maynard was in the midst of an arson-setting spree.”

Attorney Mark Reichel spent a decade defending federal cases including arson. He said, “They really went quickly to get warrants on his phone, tracker for his vehicle and they kept this person as a big suspect right away.”

Court documents suggest the suspected arsonist at one point worked at Santa Clara University. Sonoma State confirms he was also taught at their university fall of 2020 specializing in criminology and criminal justice.

Maynard denied the allegations once arrested he told officers, “I’m going to kill you, f****** pig! I told those f****** I didn’t start any of those fires!”

A professor once specializing in crimes is now accused of committing his own.

Reichel said, “They are going to try to put a map up and say this is somebody who had a goal and the goal was to set a lot of fires, hoping there would be just one big one.”

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