Dexter man charged with burglary, arson of auto repair shop

Dexter man charged with burglary, arson of auto repair shop

DEXTER, MO (KFVS) - A Dexter man has been arrested on a warrant for burglary and arson accused of setting an auto repair shop on fire.

Stoddard County officials say Jeremy Swallows, 34, was taken into custody after an investigation into an arson at a Dexter business.

The fire

According to court documents, on November 30, 2014, a Dexter police officer was contacted at the On-The-Go Convenience Store at 402 E. Bus 60 in Dexter, Mo. by a passerby driver saying that smoke was coming from Roberts Repair Shop, located at 213 E. Bus 60, also in Dexter.

The patrol officer arrived around 1 a.m. and saw smoke coming from the northeast section of the business.

The Dexter Fire Department put out the fire, and crews contained a large oil spill inside the building.

Fire officials stated the fire appeared to have started in the north section of the interior.

Police say there was a truck parked in the north section of the interior that was burned as well.

The business owner, Robert Finch, indicated he hadn't been inside the business since Wednesday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

He described the truck inside as a 2012 Dodge diesel and identified the owner as Jeremy Swallows.

The business owner says Swallows called him and requested his truck be towed from off the roadway near his home at 15332 St. Hwy AD Dexter, Mo.

Officials say video surveillance of the fire between 12:49 a.m. and 12:53 a.m. shows a flammable substance was most likely involved.

Both cameras show no signs of anyone in or around the business.

Officials think the fire was set by someone.

Dexter police conducted a preliminary interview with Swallows at the Dexter Police Department on December 1, 2014.

Swallows explained that a fire had ignited on his dash approximately two to three months prior, due to an electrical malfunction.

Swallows then paid off his truck prior to receiving a settlement offer through his insurance company.

His said he wanted to avoid the truck having a salvage title.

Swallows says he was scheduled to receive a check from the insurance company of more than $35,000 but had not received the amount due to parts missing from the truck.

After the vehicle was towed, Finch contacted Swallows' insurance company to report missing parts from the truck which delayed the insurance company from issuing him a check.

Swallows stopped by police

On December 3, a Missouri State Highway patrolman contacted Dexter PD, stopped Swallows during a traffic stop on on November 30, at approximately 1 a.m.

He said he observed Swallows around 12:57 a.m., coming from a building on the south side of Bus. 60, two blocks east of Roberts Repair Shop.

The trooper says he followed Swallows to Stoddard Street, where he conducted a traffic stop on Stoddard near S. Hickory.

According to the trooper, Swallows stated he and a passenger were coming back from the movies and stopped at a business owned by Swallows' parents.

Swallows further stated he had to drop off some stuff at his truck.

The trooper said Swallows admitted he had been drinking alcohol, but passed field sobriety tests, and was released from the stop.

Second interview with Swallows

On January 14, Dexter police conducted a second interview with Jeremy Swallows at the Dexter Police Department.

Swallows denied any involvement in the Roberts Repair Shop fire investigation.

Officials discussed his reasoning for paying off the vehicle loan prior to receiving any type of settlement from his insurance company. Swallows was adamant he didn't want the truck to have a salvage title.

Swallows mentioned after he filed the claim from the dash fire, he removed some items from the truck.

He admitted to removing the hitch, batteries and tailgate from the truck after he filed the claim.

When asked about his whereabouts on the night of the fire, Swallows says he and a friend went to the Dexter movie theater to watch a film.

Swallows says the film finished around 12:30 a.m. and they sat on the parking lot for a few minutes.

Swallows admitted to drinking two beers during the movie.

He then drove to Rhodes Convenience Store to purchase beer but they refused to sell it because it was after 1 a.m.

He says he then drove to his parents' store, so that he and his passenger could use the restroom inside.

Swallows parked in front of the business and left the truck lights on while they went inside.

Swallows says after leaving the business he was pulled over by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Passenger's interview

On January 17, 2015, Swallow's passenger on the night of Dec. 3 was interviewed at the Jackson Police Department.

He says he has been friends with Swallows for 10 or 11 years, and claimed he would be upset if he found out Swallows was responsible for the fire.

The passenger was then asked about the events of that night, during which he corroborated Swallows' account.

On Thursday, July 9, 2015, officials conducted another interview with the passenger at the Dexter Police Department.

During the interview, he stated that on November 30, 2014, he and Swallows left the theater in Dexter around 12:30 a.m.

He said Swallows was talking about setting fire to the structure of Robert's Towing and Auto Repair in Dexter.

He said Swallows drove toward the business and parked in the alley way on the west side of the business.

He stated Swallows first said he was going to place some items behind the business and return later.

Swallows then allegedly exited the vehicle and retrieved some items from the back of his truck.

The passenger says Swallows then walked toward the business.

Approximately four minutes later, Swallows returned to the truck. The passenger said he then tried to talk Swallows out of setting fire to the business, but  Swallows said, "It's already going."

Swallows was taken to the Stoddard County Jail. His bond was set at $50,000 cash only.

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