Prosecutors dismiss arson charge against man accused of burning his Puyallup business

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Pierce County prosecutors this week dismissed arson charges brought against a 54-year-old Puyallup business owner accused of setting a fire that burned his laundromat and other businesses at the Valley Plaza shopping center.

Sam Hoy was accused in October 2020 of first-degree arson, more than a year after his business, the Happy Dryclean & Laundromat, was damaged along with others in a fire at the shopping center on East Main Avenue near 15th Street Southeast.

In a motion and order for dismissal filed Tuesday, deputy prosecuting attorney Lisa Wagner said it was unlikely that the state would be able to prove the arson charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The defense provided a Fire Investigator’s Origin and Cause report that calls into question many of the assumptions made by the Fire Marshall in this case,” the motion states.

Other concerns regarding the fire investigation arose during an interview with the Pierce County Fire Marshal, Warner Webb, according to the document. Those concerns were not specified.

The dismissal without prejudice allows prosecutors to refile charges if circumstances change, Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson Adam Faber said.

“We anticipate there may be further proceedings involving property damage claims and insurance matters,” Faber said in an email. “We have left open the option to re-file criminal charges if additional facts or evidence comes to light.”

The fire occurred the night of Sept. 24, 2019 at Valley Plaza, a strip mall that housed seven businesses at the time. Fire officials said the blaze took two hours to extinguish.

The News Tribune talked with a number of business owners who were affected, including Hoy. The man said he and his wife, who owned the business with him, weren’t sure what they were going to do next.

Reached by phone Friday, Hoy declined to comment.

The business owner was charged a year later in Pierce County Superior Court. Investigators had discovered the day after the incident that the fire started in an electrical room of Hoy’s laundromat.

The fire marshal declared the business a crime scene after allegedly finding evidence that natural gas lines connected to laundry dryers had been tampered with, according to court documents. Investigators also found numerous butane canisters in the electrical room.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.