Willits homeowner was in class when house caught fire | AspenTimes.com

Willits homeowner was in class when house caught fire

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesThe shell of a home stands at 510 Lake Court in the Willits subdivision the day after a Jan. 12 fire. An investigation into the fire, which has been ruled arson, continues.

BASALT – The owner of the house that burned down last week in what investigators say was a case of arson said he has a solid alibi for his whereabouts during the fire.

Harold “Chip” Unglert said he was at a meditation class in downtown Basalt on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 12. “My whereabouts that evening can be verified by 11 other people,” he said.

Unglert said he doesn’t feel he should have to defend himself because he had nothing to do with the fire. However, he was willing to confirm he was in a class. He said he told police officers early in the investigation about the class and supplied them with the name of the instructor.

Unglert said he was in the class from about 6:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. The fire at his house at 510 Lake Court in the Willits subdivision of West Basalt was reported at 8:20 p.m.

Angel Cusick, the instructor, confirmed that Unglert was in the class during the times he provided. She said the “Walk in the Clouds” class that evening featured meditation and study of various angels and saints. The class was at her downtown Basalt studio, which she said is known as “Angelville” and also as the “Academy of Light.”

“He’s got another 10 people at least that were there with him,” Cusick said. A Basalt police officer called Cusick Thursday afternoon, Jan. 20, to confirm Unglert’s attendance.

Unglert’s house and the classroom are roughly 4 miles apart.

Unglert said he learned that his house was burning after he got out of the class. There were multiple messages on his cell phone in his car and he was reached by another caller, he said. He drove straight to the scene and arrived after the flames were essentially out and the roof had partially collapsed. The house was a total loss. A renter was the only occupant at the time. He escaped uninjured.

The Basalt Police Department said a fire expert from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found signs that an accelerant was used on several points of the exterior of the house. The fire started on the outside and spread quickly.

Police have not named any suspects, and the investigation is ongoing. The CBI is analyzing evidence from the scene. Sgt. Stu Curry of the Basalt Police Department said once all the information is collected, it will be handed over to the Eagle County district attorney’s office for a decision on whether a charge should be filed. National reports indicate that only 15 to 20 percent of arson cases end with an arrest.

Curry said Unglert’s presence at a class doesn’t really affect the investigation. He noted that Unglert has never been named a suspect. Unglert said in an earlier interview that he felt police were targeting him. Curry said that wasn’t the intent of Basalt police officers.

“Our desire is to work with him to figure out who burned his house down,” Curry said.

Unglert said his insurance company is also investigating the case. He hoped to learn more from them this week.

Unglert said he wanted to acknowledge the “great job” the Basalt fire department did at putting out his house fire. He said he recently watched a neighbor’s videotape of the firefighting effort and saw that the department did a “very efficient” job. “They really deserve a pat on the back,” he said.