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City to reward witnesses who helped convict arsonist
by Gary Kent
Mar 03, 2010 | 763 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Detective Chris Bernal smiles as City Manager Tom Ginter hands a couple of $125 checks to Detective Eddie Garcia last week. The checks are rewards that will be paid to two witnesses who helped to get a district court conviction in a 2008 arson case.
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It was just after 2 p.m. on a sunny day at the end of December 2008 that the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department was sent to a garage fire in the 800 block of West Stamper Street.

Minutes after firemen arrived to extinguish the flaming garage, police officers at the scene had been told that the fire was not an accident. Witnesses had seen a suspicious man in the garage only seconds before the flames burst out of the front door of the structure.

Last week, City Manager Tom Ginter handed two $125 checks to detectives Eddie Garcia and Chris Bernal to turn over to two witnesses.

The suspect, later identified as 18-year-old Mathew Suniga, was handed a 10-year sentence recently for starting the fire.

Garcia said the City of Beeville has a program in effect that provides $250 reward for anyone who provides the information necessary to solve an arson case.

Rewards are rarely paid under the program because arsonists usually do not have witnesses. Fortunately, there were two people who were able to describe the arsonist suspect in the Stamper Street case.

Officers did not have to go far to find the bald, Hispanic male who had been wearing a black shirt and a blue bandana and riding a bicycle.

Garcia said Suniga had been seen stashing his bike and telling someone to say they had not seen him.

But the suspect was snatched up a short distance away from the scene of the crime. Garcia said that when firemen arrived, Suniga was actually standing in the crowd watching the action.

When officers searched the suspect, they found a lighter in his right front pocket and a blue bandana in his left rear pocket.

Garcia said three people who had seen Suniga in the garage were able to provide positive identification when they saw him again.

“We’re very appreciative of the information we received,” Garcia said. “That’s what we need from the public, them calling in suspicious people. This is the second time we’ve given out one of these rewards.”

Garcia said he needs the two witnesses who have been promised the rewards to call him at 358-8100. He has been having problems contacting them.
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