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Suspect in String of Fires Enters Plea of Not Guilty

August 29, 1996|SCOTT HADLY

Out of jail on $25,000 bail, suspected serial arsonist Kenneth Allen Lee pleaded not guilty Wednesday during his arraignment on charges that he started five wild-land fires near Ojai.

Lee, a 37-year-old oil rig worker from Ojai, faced the charges with his pregnant wife and his parents at his side.

Lee borrowed money from friends to put together enough to make bail, his attorneys said.

They had argued Friday that the bail be reduced, but prosecutors said that because it is the fire season, Lee could be a danger to the community.

He was arrested Aug. 20 after a yearlong investigation that included extensive surveillance of his home by detectives.

The first fire was set last summer, and the most recent fire was started June 29 and burned 145 acres in the Topatopa Mountains.

"I can't tell you how many times they apparently watched him take his daughter to the playground," said defense attorney August Brescia, who is representing Lee along with attorney Victor Salas.

From the evidence he has seen, the case against his client looks weak, Salas said.

"We've only seen about 100 pages so far and it doesn't show a whole lot," he said.

"But we don't know what else they have. So far it looks like a mishmash of stuff, a lot of homespun nothing."

But prosecutor Richard Simon said the case against Lee was strong and would include evidence linking him to the fires.

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 30.

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