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Man charged with August arson released

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A man who faces arson charges for allegedly setting an abandoned vehicle on fire back in August, was released on his own personal recognizance Friday.

Documents filed in Chaves County Magistrate Court Friday state that after a court appearance that day, Santino Rodriguez, 20, of Roswell, was released under the conditions that he not possess any firearms or dangerous weapons, not return to the location of the alleged incident, must avoid contact with any alleged victims or anyone who might testify in the case, and that he not leave Chaves County without permission from the court.

A warrant was served on Rodriguez Sept. 5 at the South Atkinson Avenue address of the Chaves County Detention Center on one charge of arson with damage over $2,500, according to the Roswell Police Department log.

Rodriguez is alleged to have burned an abandoned 2010 Chrysler Sebring Aug. 9 behind the 1000 block of Monroe Avenue where he resided at the time.

The vehicle fire was reported by a resident near South Grande Avenue just before 12:30 a.m. on the day of the incident. Investigators later determined the fire likely started in the vehicle’s passenger compartment. A melted gas can was later found melted next to the car.

Police later learned of Rodriguez’s possible involvement in the fire from an anonymous tip they received through Crime Stoppers. The caller reported that they heard Rodriguez might have been involved in setting the fire, burned himself while setting the fire, and had gone to a hospital for treatment a few days later.

The caller also alleged Rodriguez might have been staying at a Monroe Avenue residence near where the fire occurred, according to court documents.

Rodriguez was questioned by police Aug. 29 when they went to his home to execute multiple warrants on him for unrelated charges, according to court documents. He told police he heard rumors while he was out of town that he was accused of setting the fire, and that a gas can that belonged to his grandmother’s brother was reported stolen.

Police questioned Rodriguez at the time about burns on his body. He said that on a date he could not recall, he was knocked unconscious and sustained burns from an explosion that occurred while he had been trying to light a grill at his girlfriend’s residence.

Investigators later visited the residence of Rodriguez’s girlfriend, where she and other residents denied there had been a recent fire or explosion. Investigators also found no signs of a fire or explosion occurring near the residence. Roswell Fire Department had not received a call about any fire or explosion at the residence between Aug. 9 and 11, according to court documents.

Pictures of burns on Rodriguez’s body were later shown to an Emergency Room doctor at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, who said the burns were consistent with fuel splashing from an open fire onto his arm and not burns from a propane gas ignition, according to court documents.

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