URBANA — A homeless man already in jail on other charges has been charged with setting a fire at a business in Champaign last fall.
By Mary Schenk – February 23rd, 2015
Drew J. Knight, 22, was charged Tuesday in Champaign County Circuit Court with a single count of arson for allegedly setting the fire that heavily damaged Steam Industries Vape Lounge at 304 S. Neil St., on Nov. 14. The fire also caused heavy smoke damage at the adjoining Tumble Inn bar.
Champaign firefighters responded to the building just after 5 a.m. on that Saturday and found heavy damage on the south end of the building housing the vapor business.
A Champaign police report said firefighters could not find a definite cause at the time. No accelerants were found, nor were there any apparent problems with electrical wiring.
An employee of the Tumble Inn reported to investigators that he heard glass breaking around 5 a.m. and saw smoke coming from the rear doors of Steam Industries. He also noticed a window there was broken.
Fire investigators believed, due to the damage, that the fire had started in an office of that business but left the cause undetermined.
The building sustained damage estimated at $175,000.
A Champaign police report said Knight was arrested Dec. 12 on unrelated aggravated battery charges and while he was talking in the squad car, was captured on video confessing to setting the vapor business on fire.
On Jan. 7, he was interviewed again by Champaign police and firefighters and said he broke a window to Steam Industries with a rock to get in and that he “liked playing with fire.”
He said he set clothing that was in the office on fire and put it on a couch, the report said.
Knight has two other felony cases pending for burglary and for aggravated battery, resisting a peace officer and threatening a public official. Bond in those cases was set at a total of $75,000.
On Tuesday, Judge John Kennedy set his bond on the arson charge at $100,000.
He is due back in court on all three cases March 1.
If convicted of the arson charge, Knight faces penalties ranging from probation to three to seven years in prison.