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Man charged with arson after apartment fire

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A man who was about to evicted from his apartment was charged with arson Wednesday after he allegedly set it on fire.

Michael Pantuso, 36, of Roswell, was charged with arson of more than $500, but not more than $2,500.

Police were dispatched to the 700 block of East 3rd Street at 10:44 p.m Wednesday in reference to an unknown fire.

Fire crews at the scene discovered that the smoke came from an apartment, and worked to contain it. An officer then spotted Pantuso talking on the phone while sitting on a nearby fence line, court documents state.

Upon questioning, Pantuso said he was smoking a cigarette when it dropped on a plastic bag in his residence. He said that he left the apartment when it began to fill with smoke.

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One of Pantuso’s neighbors later told police Pantuso was being evicted from his apartment and that he “has been acting very weird and angry lately.” The neighbor told police that she believed Pantuso intentionally started the fire in the apartment, according to court documents.

A fire inspector at the scene later said that a propane lantern was in the middle of the floor in the apartment and police estimated about $2,000 in smoke, water and cosmetic damage was done to the apartment.

Pantuso later admitted to setting the fire, telling investigators “voices told him to light the apartment on fire,” according to court documents.

He later told the fire inspector that he was being evicted from the apartment, and that he set the fire with a lighter, according to court documents.

Pantuso’s name was not listed on the Chaves County Detention Center’s June 7 jail population summary report. A detention hearing for Pantuso is scheduled for next Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Chaves County Magistrate Court.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.