Mexico man accused of arson, murder after fatal December fire
MEXICO, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Audrain County prosecutor issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a man who is allegedly connected with a fire in Mexico that killed a woman last month.
Brandon Spears, 43, is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson and armed criminal action.
An apartment complex in the 1200 block of West Breckenridge Drive caught fire before 1:30 a.m. Dec. 23. Police said Spears lived in the building at the time. His mother, Ruth Stuart, 60, died in the fire.
"I did know the woman, she was really sweet," LaShae Caldwell, a neighbor across the street, said. "Her son and his girlfriend lived with her. She asked me not to let the landlords know they were living there."
According to a probable cause statement, the medical examiner believes Stuart suffered trauma to her head. The medical examiner thinks Stuart was still alive when the fire started.
"I heard kinda like a boom," Caldwell said. "I woke up and looked out the window to see the corner of the apartment engulfed in flames."
The probable cause statement says Stuart told a witness -- identified C.B. -- to stay away from the apartment because Spears was in a "weird bad mood" hours before the fire began.
Investigators determined the fire began by a person, in the room Spears was using.
Investigators said video from a nearby home showed the burning apartment building and a person running away from the area. Someone who lived near the apartment complex later found a club that appeared to have hair stuck to it in his backyard.
Investigators have also linked Spears to a second fire that happened more than an hour later. Police said the fire happened in a storage room in a warehouse in the 1000 block of East Elmwood Drive.
According to court documents, a warehouse fire alarm went off around 2:30 a.m. Video from the warehouse shows Spears going into the building. He is later seen leaving in a warehouse uniform. Investigators found his clothes in an office near the storage room.
According to a press release, Spears also has an active arrest warrant for a probation violation.
"She definitely needs justice," Caldwell said.
Mexico resident found alleged weapon
A Mexico resident -- referred to as W.B. in the probable cause statement and in this piece -- told ABC 17 News he plans to sell his house after finding what police believe to be the alleged murder weapon.
"Well obviously, a killer tried to get into my house. I don't feel safe here anymore," W.B. said.
W.B. lives about a block away from the apartment complex and said he was waken up at 1:15 am to a loud bang on his back door. They weren't initially afraid. That feeling changed when he was doing yard work and found what the police believe to be the weapon.
"Seven days later, I found a small bat-like tool back here. It was a small bat," W.B. said. "Had barbed wire wrapped around the end of it. Looked like it had blood and skull on it. That was taken by the Mexico Police Department as evidence."
W.B. said he was frustrated with how long the investigation took.
"I'm disappointed that the Mexico Police Department didn't announce a suspect or persons of interest, (and) that it took them 35 days to do this," they said. "When they obviously had him on video at another location."
W.B. added that he "became increasingly paranoid. I've been I added security lights, cameras."
Anyone with information about Spears' whereabouts is asked to call CRIMESTOPPERS at 800-392-8477 or the Mexico Public Safety Department at 573-581-2100.