Portland apartment arson suspect indicted on 55 counts

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The suspect in the May 16 fire that destroyed the May Apartments building in downtown Portland has been indicted by a grand jury on 55 counts, according to a news release from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s office.

Garrett Allen Ray Repp faces 28 counts of first-degree arson, 21 counts of recklessly endangering another person, five counts of first-degree animal abuse and one count of first-degree criminal mischief.

Repp, 30, was a tenant in the building, but court documents state that he had already been evicted and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office was scheduled to physically remove him on May 16. He is suspected of starting the fire in his own unit less than less than two hours before the removal.

Repp was arrested May 25 and made his first court appearance last week, where he pleaded not guilty. He was indicted June 2, according to Schmidt.

Each arson count pertains to a specific apartment unit within the five-story building and names a tenant whose property was damaged, according to the indictment document, except for the final two counts, which only list the address of the building overall.

The animal abuse charges all appear to be related to pets that died in the fire; the charges each accuse Repp of “recklessly and cruelly” causing the death of an animal on May 16.

Firefighters determined that 16 residents had been inside the building at the time of the fire, and six of them had been asleep. Three more people entered the building to assist in evacuation before Portland Fire & Rescue crews arrived at about 10:28 a.m., according to court documents.

The fire consumed five apartment units on the building’s third floor and all 10 units on the fourth floor. The 113-year-old structure was completely gutted by the blaze.

Sequence of events

In an affidavit filed May 26, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Eric Palmer laid out the suspected sequence of events on May 16.

The building’s owner, Larry Kelley, told fire investigators that Repp had caused frequent problems for neighbors, and had at one point cut a hole through the wall of his own apartment, unit 310, and begun occupying the adjacent unit 301.

Repp had been evicted and the sheriff’s office was scheduled to assist in removing him at 11:30 a.m. on May 16, Kelley told investigators. Kelley said he arrived just after 10 a.m. to address a disturbance that Repp had allegedly caused the night before, but got no response at Repp’s door.

After speaking to another tenant on a different floor, Kelley said he returned to the third floor and encountered Repp in the hallway, but Repp refused any conversation, entered his unit and closed the door, according to the affidavit.

Kelley said he was needed elsewhere, so he left the building but called the property manager to confirm that she would return to the building. The property manager, Rachel Elkins, told investigators she arrived at the building less than 10 minutes after Kelley’s call and saw fire trucks already arriving.

A fire investigator at the scene saw fire patterns on the north side of the structure that were later determined to be above the living room and kitchen windows of Repp’s unit, according to the affidavit.

Detectives later interviewed the tenant from unit 309 next door, who said he’d been asleep on the morning of May 16 and woke up when he heard a door slamming and a loud popping noise, according to the affidavit.

The door slamming appeared to have come from unit 310, and the tenant in 309 called police due to previous negative interactions with Repp. The tenant looked out the window and saw broken glass on the fire escape and smoke coming from the window of unit 310. He also said he saw smoke coming from the door of 310 as he left the building.

The tenant in unit 409, directly above 310, later told detectives that she woke up when her dog alerted her to the fire, and found her apartment filling with black smoke. She took her dog down the fire escape and saw a large amount of smoke and felt significant heat coming from 310’s kitchen window on the way down, according to the affidavit.

An accelerant detection dog visited unit 310 on May 24 and confirmed five positive alerts, according to the affidavit. Samples of suspected accelerant have been sent to the Oregon State Police crime lab for analysis.

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