BARTON COUNTY — Law enforcement authorities have been investigating alleged arson at the Barton County County Detention Facility.
According to Sheriff Brian Bellendir, on August 20, two inmates in the Barton County Detention Facility damaged a light fixture to gain access to the wiring.
They then intentionally caused a direct short and managed to ignite small pieces of paper. They then took larger pieces of paper and started a larger fire adding plastic food trays and other items from their cell. The detention staff quickly noticed the fire and gained entry to the cell.
The Great Bend Fire Department responded, and the fire was quickly brought under control. The actions of these inmates placed sheriff’s office personnel as well as the general jail population at risk.
Because the fire had intentionally been set in an occupied building, Sheriff’s Office personnel contacted the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office to assist in the investigation. After conducting interviews of the inmates, the Fire Marshall determined aggravated arson charges should be sought.
The two inmates including 35-year-old Zachariah Dittrich were placed under arrest immediately and booked on charges of aggravated arson-a level three felony. The case was sent to the County Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Criminal charges were filed by the Barton County Attorney’s Office and the incident was placed on the court docket for a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday, September 13, 2018.
The Sheriff’s Office delivered Zachariah Dittrick to the district court for the proceeding. An assistant county attorney advised the court he had only recently been assigned the case. The case had been under review by County Atty. Amy Mellor.
According to the sheriff, Mellor was not in her office this week and no subpoenas had been issued in the case and the State could not proceed.
The State’s Attorney requested a continuance. Defense Attorney Don Anderson moved the case be dismissed. The Hon. Richard Burgess granted the motion to dismiss without prejudice. Judge Burgess further stated if the State wished to refile the case they must do so by summons only.
Dittrick was returned to the jail where he is being held on an aggravated battery charge only.
The Sheriff’s Office has received no documents as of this time, recharging Dittrick with the arson.