Father of man accused of starting Lake Christine Fire asks for trial in trespass case

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily
Craig Miller, whose son Richard is accused of sparking the Lake Christine Fire, leaves court Wednesday in Eagle County. Craig Miller pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to trespassing charges that he stormed to a neighbor’s house and confronted them.
Randy Wyrick / Vail Daily

EAGLE — Craig Miller said he is not guilty and will take his chances at trial.

Miller, whose son Richard is accused along with Allison Marcus of sparking the Lake Christine Fire, pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to charges that he stormed to a neighbor’s house and confronted them, accusing them of telling police that Richard and Marcus were in his Missouri Heights home.

“Mr. Miller vehemently denies engaging in any criminal behavior. We look forward to clearing his name and telling his side of the story at trial,” said Michael Fox, Craig Miller’s attorney.

Richard Miller and Marcus, both 23, each face felony arson charges. They are accused of firing incendiary rounds at a Basalt shooting range that started the Lake Christine Fire on July 3.

Craig Miller, Richard’s father, was arrested for his alleged behavior when Eagle County deputies received a tip July 14 that his son and Marcus were at his Missouri Heights home.

Craig Miller, 49, allegedly became upset that someone had tipped off law enforcement officials. Police say he angrily charged over to a neighbor’s house to confront them, according to his arrest affidavit.

There was reportedly some miscommunication about what date in July that Richard Miller and Marcus would turn themselves in.

District Attorney Bruce Brown said he interpreted it would be July 13.

Craig Miller said he interpreted it to be July 16, a Monday, and had asked that law enforcement stay away from the house that weekend because they were hosting family members.

Police say that when law enforcement officials arrived, Miller went to a neighbor’s house, “knocking on the door, screaming and trying to get into the locked home,” the incident report said. When law enforcement arrived, the neighbor said Miller had used a crowbar to try to get in.

Shortly after Craig Miller was placed in the back of a patrol car and placed under arrest, Richard Miller and Marcus exited the house with their hands in the air and said they wanted to surrender, police said.

All three remain free on bond.

Craig Miller’s three-day trial is scheduled to begin April 8, 2019, before District Court Paul Dunkelman on criminal trespass charges, a felony, and misdemeanor menacing charges. If convicted, he faces between one and three years in jail.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan told Judge Dunkelman that prosecutors had offered Miller a plea deal. Miller rejected it and will go to trial.

Miller is back in court Jan. 11 for a hearing in advance of his April trial.

The Lake Christine Fire burned from July 3 through early October and consumed more than 12,500 acres in the Basalt State Wildlife Area and on Basalt Mountain in the White River National Forest. Firefighting costs are estimated at more than $17 million, part of a $40 million tab to fight four wildfires last summer, according to White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.