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Arson, Burglary Charges Requested Against Columbia County Man

Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012 -- 6:56 a.m.

Information from the Columbus Police Department:

Columbus Police are requesting Burglary, Theft and Criminal Damage charges against a 26-year-old Rio man following the August 8, 2012 burglary of a Columbus Pick 'n' Save.

Columbia County Sheriff's Department authorities are requesting Arson charges for the Town of Columbus fire set as a diversion.

On August 8 at 3:22 a.m., a masked burglar forced his way into the Columbus Pick 'n' Save. He fled several minutes later with a large sum of cash. Approximately 23 minutes earlier, a fire was reported behind the Peterson Elementary School at W1004 Hall Road, in the Town of Columbus, which is a few miles out of the city. Columbus officers were dispatched out there to assist Columbia County. A storage shed behind the school burned to the ground.

Police are crediting social media, Channel 15, and The Daily Citizen with helping identify the suspect.

Security system photos of the masked burglar were published in the newspaper, put on the department's Facebook page, as well as on the Channel 15 website.

Columbia County CrimeStoppers immediately began receiving calls naming the suspect. A majority of those calls identified the suspect as Nathan J. Jones, 26, of Rio.

Officials obtained photos of Jones for comparison and believed he was the likely suspect. Investigators also discovered Jones had a felony warrant for a Probation Violation out for his arrest.

Jones was tracked to Mitchell, SD. On August 21, the Mitchell Police Department located Jones and arrested him on the warrant. Following his arrest, a search warrant was written for his vehicle by the Mitchell Police Department which revealed evidence from the Pick 'n' Save burglary.

On August 30, investigators from the Columbus and Beaver Dam Police Departments interviewed Jones at the Dodge County Jail. Jones admitted to lighting the fire at the Peterson School, the Pick 'n' Save Burglary, as well as a burglary in the City of Beaver Dam in June. Jones stated he lit the fire behind the Peterson School because he knew there weren't many law enforcement officers on duty at that time of the morning and knew it would draw them out there while he committed the burglary.

Jones remains in custody for probation-related issues.

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