GREAT FALLS — A man accused of igniting a fire at the Gunther apartments in Choteau last month appeared in court on Tuesday.
The fire resulted in two residents being treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation, displaced all 20 of the residents of the building, and claimed the lives of several pets.
The investigation was done by the Montana State Fire Marshal and a private investigator from an insurance agency.
The investigator said that Dennis James Jackson admitted to him that he was trying to kill himself because he was depressed and suicidal, but that he had not intended to hurt anyone but himself.
According to court documents, Jackson told the investigator that he vented a propane cylinder, lit a piece of paper, and left the room. The investigator found the propane container inside Jackson's apartment.
Jackson was read his rights and the felony charges against him for arson and criminal endangerment by Judge Robert Olsen.
Jackson pleaded not guilty to the charges. An omnibus hearing is set for June 8th; Jackson will remain jailed unless he posts bail, which was set at $25,000. If he posts bail, he has been granted permission to stay with a relative in Choteau.
Steve Dogiakos, president of the Choteau Chamber of Commerce, created a GoFundMe account so people can donate to help with recovery efforts.
The account page notes: "Opportunity Bank has set up a donation account and is matching the first $2,500 donated and Neighbors Helping Neighbors will match the second $2,500 to help these displaced members of our community."