Mich. Arson Investigator Charged with Planting Evidence

June 1, 2007

An arson investigator was arraigned this week in two counties on charges of planting evidence at fire scenes, Michigan authorities said.

Jeffrey D. Wallace, 53, was arraigned last week on similar charges in Gladwin County and is under investigation in St. Clair County.

Wallace and his police dog “Cops” were “used extensively by law enforcement agencies, fire departments and insurance companies to search suspected arson fires,” Michigan State Police said in a statement.

In each case, the former fire marshal in Eastpointe is accused of planting accelerants at fire scenes. “I have no idea why,” state police Detective Lt. Marvin Jenkins said.

Wallace was arraigned Wednesday in Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township on charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. He was arraigned Friday on the same charges in Gladwin County, where he also was charged with filing a false police report.

Wallace was arraigned later Wednesday in Bay County on two counts of evidence tampering, one count of obstructing justice and one count of felony firearm. The firearm count was brought because Wallace was carrying a pistol when he allegedly planted evidence at the scene of a May 25 fire, said his attorney, Marc Lakin.

St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling said he planned to meet with state police to discuss Wallace’s involvement in a May 17 fire in Kenockee Township.

State police began investigating Wallace after police in Macomb County’s Chesterfield Township said he might have planted evidence at the scene of a May 4 fire. Authorities later set up sting operations in which Wallace was videotaped at fire scenes.

Wallace has been released on bond after pleading not guilty in all three counties. A preliminary hearing in the Macomb County case was scheduled for June 7. Evidence tampering and obstructing justice are felonies carrying maximum 10-year prison terms.

Lakin said he intended to have Wallace undergo a psychiatric examination.

“There’s obviously some mental health issues that are as yet undiagnosed,” the defense attorney said. “This is such unusual behavior for him. He’s never had as much as a speeding ticket in his life. At this point there is no real explanation.”

“Cops” was being kept at the state police training academy in Lansing, Jenkins said.

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