A Hays businessman is joining with neighbors to keep the community on the lookout for an alleged arsonist in Ellis County. And the reward pot keeps growing.
The Kansas State Fire Marshal is investigating 20 fires that occurred in rural Ellis County beginning March 6 — and several residents have pooled money hoping to spur the investigation.
Chris Miller, owner of Auto Tech, 600 Vine, said as of Monday morning, the group has raised $3,705 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fires.
“The reason that we’re doing it is to catch an arsonist,” said Miller, who lost significant property in one of the blazes. “No arrest, no conviction, no reward.”
In one of the earliest fires, Miller lost an enclosed trailer, an RV, jet ski, an off-road vehicle and “all kinds of stuff.” Currently, 11 people have pooled $2,100 for the reward.
“Money is being collected, put in a pot and will be provided to the sheriff’s department to distribute to whoever they determine it needs to go to,” Miller said. “If we don’t get anything in the next 12 months, the money will be returned (to the donors).”
Miller said he believes the reward could offer a spark to the investigation. Anyone with information that could help the investigation is asked to call the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department at (785) 625-1040.
“If we produce enough reward money, we’ll get some results,” he said. “Somebody out there knows something, and they’re not talking.”
But Miller did worry that time will dull interest in the case and hoped the reward offer would keep the investigation in the public eye.
“There only one reward. We don’t have an endless pool of money,” he noted. “It goes to the first person with information.”
Miller said anyone wishing to add to the reward pot can contact him at (785) 625-6409.
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