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House Fire Could Have Been Attempted Murder, Authorities Say

August 16, 2019 06:39 PM

(ABC 6 News) - A man accused of intentionally setting a house on fire in Austin is now facing several attempted murder charges.
 
A little after 3 p.m. Wednesday, Austin police and fire were called to a home on the 1200 block of 3rd Avenue northwest for a reported house fire with people inside.
 
One of the residents was able to walk out of the main door, but the other was on the roof of the house and had to be rescued by a ladder.
 
“She wanted out of the residence and she thought that was her best way out. She cut through a screen and made her way out onto the roof.” Said Chief Jim McCoy with the Austin Fire Department.
 
According to court documents, the tenant told authorities their landlord, 62-year-old James Slavan had set the fire.
 
“There wasn’t a lot of physical damage to the structure. It’s the circumstances surrounding the fire that are cause for concern.” McCoy said.
 
A neighbor to residence tells ABC 6 that tension was apparent between Slavan, who occupied the first floor of the building, and Slavans tenant and victim occupying the second floor.

“There’s a lot of tension between them. Their arguments are pretty heated in the two or three that I saw.” Said neighbor Dominiq Bouska.

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“The upstairs tenant did allege to us that he’d been having some issues with the suspect; including on this particular day some sort of verbal disagreement, including the suspect wanting to come into the tenants home and the tenant denying him access.” Explained Chief David McKichan with the Austin Police Department.

“He’s been on the ground level yelling up there. They’ve never said anything back accept for the last encounter.” Bouska said.

The victim told authorities before the fire, Slavan had been pounding on the door to let him in to the upstairs apartment, and the victim told him no. That’s when the victim said he saw drops of fluid between the bottom of the floor and the door, and within seconds he saw flames and the carpet stared to burn, blocking the only exit to the apartment.
 
The victim also told authorities that while Slavan was intoxicated the week before, he told him he was going to ‘burn the house down around him.’”
 
Court documents state that one of the victims told authorities Slavan was mad at him, and had been harassing his friends. He told authorities the harassment had been bad since he reported a domestic involving his landlord to the police a few weeks earlier.
 
Slavan was found a couple of blocks away and taken in for questioning. When asked if he set the apartment on fire he asked for an attorney. Slavan made his first appearance in mower county court Friday on five felony charges;  two charges of attempted murder 1st degree, two charges of  attempted murder 1st degree with intent and 1st degree arson.
 

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