The man accused of setting fire to the George Rogers Clark home site in Clarksville pleaded not guilty in his initial court appearance on Monday.
Jason Fosse, 36, is charged with one count of arson, a level 4 felony that carries a jail sentence of up to 12 years. Clark County Judge Vicki Carmichael set bond at $25,000 during the Zoom hearing.
After Carmichael read the charges, Fosse shook his head and denied the fire was set on purpose. Carmichael instructed him not to discuss any details about the case.
Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer said multiple fires were reported on Thursday near the cabin, which was destroyed. He said the fires appeared to occur in a straight-line pattern, which led investigators to believe they were intentional.
“We actually had an individual that caught the subject on cell phone video setting one of the fires,” Palmer said. “Our trail cameras, which we have set up randomly throughout the area, actually caught the individual as he was going from one location to another. It was able to not only help put the time frame together, but also give us a really good photo of our suspect.”
Using the video evidence, police released a photo of the suspect on social media on Friday. Fosse was arrested later that afternoon.
Palmer credited the quick apprehension to tips from the public.
“Once we actually had narrowed the suspects down and then [placed] the individual’s photo on Twitter and Facebook, the public response to that was just huge,” he said. “Several individuals were able not only to give us a name, but a possible location of this person.”
The cabin that caught fire on Thursday was a replica of Clark’s residence along the Ohio River in Clarksville. It opened in 2001 as part of the Falls of the Ohio State Park. The McGee Cabin, a replica of the home where the family enslaved by Clark lived, wasn’t affected by the fire.
Clark was a Revolutionary War commander who founded Louisville. He’s the namesake of the city’s downtown bridge, known to locals as the Second Street Bridge. His family also owned Locust Grove, where Clark died in 1818.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources director Dan Bortner released a statement highlighting the site’s historical significance, including its role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which was led by Clark’s younger brother, William.
“For twenty years, the reproduction of the George Rogers Clark cabin at Falls of the Ohio State Park has educated Hoosiers and our guests of the important role the site, and region, played in the history of our nation,” Bortner said. “This is where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first met, in 1803, and began their journey of discovery together. It has long served as a peaceful place for Americans to meet, reflect, and celebrate events in their lives. We are deeply saddened by this loss.”
A pretrial conference in Fosse’s case is scheduled for June 30, and a jury trial is set for October 26.