Man pleads not guilty to arson in Neenach fires case

Jeff Zimmerman, right, smiles before he and fellow freelance photographer Bernie Deyo, center, accept awards from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, Supervisor Michael Antonovich's office, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department for catching an arsonist in the act near Zimmerman's Neenach home in July. KATHARINE LOTZE/SIgnal.

A man accused of having started fires off of Highway 138 in Neenach almost a year ago pleaded not guilty recently to the charge of arson.

David Artiaga, a 27-year-old metal worker, appeared June 14 in Los Angeles Superior Court where he entered a plea of not guilty, Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

In September, Artiaga had been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment in an effort to determine if he’s fit to stand trial.

Artiaga was found to be fit for trial and is now scheduled to appear at a pre-trial hearing next month.

“He was in court on June 14 and pleaded not guilty,” Santiago said. “He is due back July 19 for pretrial.”

On July 19, 2016, small brush fires broke out in the 2600 block of 269th Street near Highway 138 in Neenach, Los Angeles County Fire Department Supervisor Miguel Ornelas said at the time.

Jeff Zimmerman, a photographer who was at the scene, said he saw a man running near the blazes with no shirt on.

The man claimed to have set the fires and was screaming at “the top of his lungs,” Zimmerman told The Signal.

Deputies were called to the scene to help restrain the man, according to a witness, and the suspect was eventually detained.

The fires burned 10 to 15 acres before being doused, Ornelas said.


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