Sears returned to county to face charges

Friday, January 11, 2013

A man wanted in connection with a Eureka Springs hotel arson and theft a little over a year ago has been brought back to Carroll County to face charges.

Jason Lindley Sears, 36, a transient whom police say lived in Eureka Springs, was previously extradited from Missouri to Boone County to face charges there. Once in the neighboring county, he was then transferred to the Carroll County on a bench warrant last Thursday.

On Friday, Jan. 4 he appeared in court here and was charged with two counts of theft of property, Class B felonies; three counts theft of property, Class D felonies; arson, a Class Y felony; and commercial burglary, a Class C felony.

The investigation launched by the Eureka Springs Police Department in late 2011 reportedly turned up three stolen trailers filled with heisted property, all found behind the 1876 Inn. The discovery unearthed what police say was a huge theft ring that required the involvement of law enforcement agencies across Northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri and Oklahoma.

A month prior to Sears' arrest, in November 2011, an officer made contact with Sears as he was leaving the Victorian Inn, which was repeatedly burglarized, according to a probable cause statement issued by the Eureka Springs Police Department.

At the time, Sears identified himself as "Jason Smith" and stated that he worked for Richard Basnett at the 1876 Inn, and said the copper and torches he possessed belonged to Basnett.

In December 2011, Sears allegedly burglarized and set fire to the Pine Top Lodge, police said, and during that investigation, Detective Brad Handley was able to identify "Jason Smith" as Sears.

In early 2012, as the investigation into the incident at the Pine Top Lodge continued, additional hidden stolen goods and contraband began to surface after police interviewed Sears, who was captured in Missouri following a multi-agency pursuit.

Sears reportedly admitted to the theft and arson at Pine Top Lodge, claiming Basnett offered him $10,000 and a pickup truck for burning the motel and gave him the fuel to start the fire.

He remained in custody at the Taney County Detention Center in Forsyth, Mo., until his recent extradition to Harrison.

Sears is currently being held without bond at the Carroll County Detention Center. His next court date is set for Feb. 11.

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