Arson suspect faces new charges over dead animals
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A man accused of intentionally setting a fire in Phoenix that contributed to the Almeda fire now faces added criminal charges surrounding the deaths of eight animals.
Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, made his first court appearance Friday on eight new misdemeanor counts of animal abuse surrounding animals that allegedly perished in the portion of the fire he allegedly set, according to a filing from the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office in Jackson County Circuit Court.
The charges accuse Bakkela of causing the death of animals including a sheep, a canary, a lamb, chickens, a raccoon and the goldfish, The Mail Tribune reported.
The court document identifies four owners of the pets and livestock.
Last month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argued in a letter that “cruelty to animals charges must not be lost in this fire.”
Markiewicz is separately prosecuting Bakkela on arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangering charges accusing him of starting the fire in Phoenix, according to court documents. Bakkela pleaded not guilty to those charges in September, KDRV-TV reported. It wasn’t immediately known if he has had a lawyer appointed to his case.
On Oct. 1, Markiewicz filed notice in the case that prosecutors will seek steeper penalties for reasons including “harm greater than typical,” that the crimes “were committed during an ongoing fire or catastrophe,” claims that Bakkela is a “repeat property offender” and because the crime occurred while he was on probation.
He is being held in the Jackson County Jail on over $5 million bail.