DECATUR – Maurice Johnson, a 50-year-old Decatur man who has served 10 prior prison sentences, is back in custody after allegedly intentionally setting a fire in the carpeted hallway of a near-northside high-rise building for seniors and tenants with disabilities.

Johnson, who was free on bond in three other Macon County criminal cases at the time of his arrest Monday afternoon, is being held in jail on $20,000 bond on a preliminary charge of aggravated arson.

Due to the quick response of a resident, the fire was quickly extinguished, said a probable cause affidavit by Decatur patrol officer Brandon Rolfs.

No injuries were reported in the Concord Highrise, 333 E. Center St., as a result of the actions of that fourth-floor resident and another resident, who pitched in to pour water onto the burning pile of clothing.

The building, administered by the Decatur Housing Authority, has 88 residents, including Johnson. Many of them were home when he lit the fire.

One fourth-floor resident saw “Maurice carry clothing which had previously been sitting inside the mail slot just outside his (fourth-floor) apartment,” Rolfs wrote in his statement. That resident saw Johnson carry the clothing a short distance down the hallway, then drop it onto the floor.

A few minutes later, another resident returning from the grocery store saw “Maurice standing in the hallway over the pile of clothes on the floor.” He entered his apartment, dropped his groceries, and returned to the hallway within less than a minute.

“Maurice was now gone from the pile of clothing which was now on fire,” the witness later told police. “He ran over to the clothing and stomped on it to attempt to extinguish the fire. Another resident then poured a pot of water on it to prevent the fire from spreading through the carpet.”

When police arrived on the scene, they found Johnson inside his apartment.

“He admitted the burned clothes belonged to him but claimed to have never left his apartment unit and denied setting the clothes on fire,” Rolfs wrote. “Maurice was laying on white bed sheets and a small black smudge was observed right next to him on the sheet which is consistent with a black smear from ash.”

Johnson's three other pending cases are a 2015 aggravated assault misdemeanor and 2014 felony cases of burglary and theft. Between 1994 and 2010, Johnson served term in the Illinois Department of Corrections for aggravated battery with a weapon; aggravated battery/great bodily harm; possession of a stolen motor vehicle; theft and retail theft.

He is due in court for his arraignment in his most recent case by Tuesday.

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Staff Writer

Staff Writer for the Herald & Review.