GRESHAM, OR (KPTV) - A Gresham man is accused of setting fire to the side of a house Friday in an effort to get his renter to leave.
David Gillett is now in jail facing a first-degree arson charge and $250,000 bail.
Court records show deputies were called to his property on SE Foster near 172nd Friday and found him in the garage with a blow torch, actively burning something. A witness said Gillette used the blow torch to try and light the side of the house on fire, and when deputies went in, the second floor was filled with smoke.
Court records show there had been a dispute over past-due rent between Gillett and his tenant, and that Gillett had said, “If you won’t leave … I will burn the place down.”
But that tenant, Michael Pritchard, told Fox 12 the whole thing is a misunderstanding.
“Was it wrong? Absolutely. It could have been really drastic,” Pritchard said. “But does it lessen my friendship to him? Absolutely not.”
Pritchard says there was never an active fire, and despite the fact he and his girlfriend were home at the time, he never felt in danger.
“Nothing was intentional, I know that from the bottom of my heart,” he added.
Pritchard says he lives on the second floor of the building next to Gillett’s house. He admitted he is a month behind on rent, and agreed that Gillett was trying to evict him.
“We were getting our finances in gear, and he couldn’t wait any longer. And he had to do what he had to do,” he said, adding that Gillette shouldn’t be in jail. “I don’t think he was trying to burn the house.”
Pritchard is moving out – not because of the fire, but because he said the property is now condemned. If it weren’t, he would have no problem continuing to live next to the man he calls his friend.
“[Gillett] may be a little weird or whatever but he doesn’t have a mean streak in his body, and he shouldn’t be in jail right now,” he said. “I got your back, bro. I’m still standing here.”
Court records show Gillett admitted to deputies he lit the side of the house on fire, but said it was to burn out cobwebs and bugs. There was no major damage, and nobody was hurt.
He’s due back in court in late February.
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