SAN MARCOS (KXAN) — A Hays County arrest affidavit obtained by KXAN has revealed new details about what led to the arrest of Jacobe Ferguson, who is facing an arson charge connected with a fire at a San Marcos apartment complex that killed five people in 2018.
During a news conference Thursday morning, the San Marcos fire marshal said authorities served an arrest warrant to the 30-year-old former resident early Wednesday morning. Investigators said no other arrests are expected in the case.
The fire happened in the early morning hours of July 20, 2018. In the following days, investigators with the San Marcos Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office interviewed several witnesses. KXAN is not naming the witnesses and will instead refer to them as Witness No. 1, Witness No. 2 and Witness No. 3.
Witness No. 1, who lived at the apartment complex at the time of the fire, told authorities there had been a mattress located in a breezeway on the first floor of the building, according to the affidavit. Witness No. 1 said Ferguson had told them about the mattress. Further, Witness No. 1 said they had a conversation with Ferguson about the “flammability” of the mattress.
When investigators interviewed Ferguson the same day, he denied knowing about the mattress. However, the affidavit said, it was noted that his demeanor changed when investigators told him there was a mattress with his name on it. He continued to deny knowledge of it, the affidavit said.
The next day, investigators interviewed Witness No. 2, who had recently moved out of an apartment at the complex. Witness No. 2 said they left a mattress, box spring, and pillows in the breezeway on the first floor of the building for Ferguson to have, according to the affidavit. Ferguson told Witness No. 2 he picked up the box spring and pillows but left the mattress.
Investigators re-interviewed Ferguson after talking to Witness No. 2, and he admitted he initially lied about the mattress, according to the affidavit. He told investigators he was too busy to pick up the mattress and said he was “negligent” for leaving it in the breezeway, the affidavit states.
According to the affidavit, investigators identified and interviewed potential suspects but ruled them out, and the investigation continued with no new leads.
In December of 2018, the ATF Fire Research Laboratory confirmed the fire to be arson and said the cause was “human intervention by the application of a competent ignition source to available combustible material,” namely, a discarded mattress near the apartment, the affidavit said.
On Thursday, investigators credited the creation of a task force in October of last year as a “needed catalyst” for moving the case forward and ultimately securing an arrest warrant.
The fire marshal said the arrest warrant came because members of the task force conducted new interviews with some of the witnesses, but he offered no other insight at the time. He also said he could not speak to what the suspect’s motive was. He added that no tip ever led to new information about the suspect’s identity.
According to the affidavit, in February of 2023, Witness No. 3, a resident at the apartment complex who was seriously injured in the fire, was interviewed. Witness No. 3 admitted to having a relationship with Ferguson in June 2018 but broke it off because Ferguson was “too emotional,” the affidavit said.
Witness No. 1 was interviewed again that month and told investigators they spoke with Ferguson the day after the fire about possible ways the fire was started, according to the affidavit. Witness No. 1 said Ferguson talked about the flammability of a mattress and that a “stray spark or someone intentionally setting fire to this mattress” could have been the cause of the fire.
In June, Witness No. 2 was interviewed again. Witness No. 2 explained Ferguson told them to lie to investigators in 2018 and not say anything about the mattress, the affidavit said. Before talking to investigators in June, Witness No. 2 said Ferguson told them they “did not have to talk to investigators,” and said to “tell investigators it had been five years and they didn’t remember,” according to the affidavit.
Witness No. 1 was also re-interviewed in June. Witness No. 1 said the day after the fire, they went to Ferguson’s new apartment, where the two talked about things going on in Ferguson’s life, including his relationship with Witness No. 3, that would have given him reason to “act out,” according to Witness No. 1’s opinion, the affidavit states.
Witness No. 1 said Ferguson, “didn’t tell me he did it, he told me why he did it,” in reference to the fire, the affidavit said. The two also discussed what kind of charges Ferguson would possibly face in connection with the fire.