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Man charged in car fire at own home

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A Bolivar man has been charged with setting fire to a vehicle at his own residence. 

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According to online court records, Steven H. Tygart, 40, of Bolivar was charged in Polk County Circuit Court with the class E felony knowingly burning or exploding. 

According to a probable cause statement filed by an officer with the Bolivar Police Department, the officer was called to an address in the 800 Block of East South Street around 12:25 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, to a report of a vehicle fire. 

The officer wrote he arrived to find the fire extinguished. The individual who reported the fire told him she’d been driving by the address and had seen “flames and smoke coming from the hood” of a 2019 Nissan Sentra. 

Bolivar City Fire Department chief Brent Watkins said firefighters were called to the scene and arrived shortly after the police. 

“At that time, the police were on scene,” he said. “The vehicle’s hood was open and fire had been knocked down.”

The vehicle was later discovered to be owned by Windstream and bore several of the company’s decals, the statement said. 

Watkins said no other departments were called for mutual aid and that firefighters were able to leave the scene shortly after arriving. No injuries were reported, he said. 

The fire chief said he wouldn’t share other details about the fire due to the criminal investigation. 

According to the probable cause statement, upon inspecting the vehicle, the officer wrote the origin of the fire was likely the plastic cover under the driver side windshield wiper. 

“It should be noted there was a very strong odor of gasoline emitting from the origin of the fire,” he wrote. “It should also be noted where the fire started there (were) no wires, nor anything else that could spontaneously combust.”

Missouri Division of Fire Safety spokesperson Mike O’Connell confirmed the division had been requested to assist with the fire but declined to further comment.

The officer wrote the following day he’d been able to locate a neighbor’s video footage of the fire, which showed an individual matching the description Tygart exiting the front door of the home in the 800 block of East South Street, while wearing a black hoodie and black sweatpants, “which Steven H. Tygart was wearing upon my arrival to this incident.”

“The subject walked to the front of the aforementioned vehicle and knelt down for a few seconds and then the subject stood up,” the officer wrote. “A few seconds later the vehicle begins smoking from the hood. The subject is watching the vehicle burn….”

According to the probable cause statement, Tygart resides at the home in the 800 block of East South Street where the fire took place. 

Tygart was interviewed by the police on Monday, Dec. 22, and requested an attorney, according to the statement. He was arrested that day. 

According to the statement, a string of fires and other vandalism had been reported at the address in the 48 hours leading up to Tygart’s arrest. Watkins said the department had been called to other fires at that address, including one other time last week. 

Tygart is being held on $50,000 bond. His next court appearance is a case review hearing set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan 6.

If convicted, he could face imprisonment in a Missouri Department of Corrections facility for one to four years, one year in the county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both imprisonment and a fine. 

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