Arson suspect found inside house on fire in Box Elder

Box Elder Fire

Photo courtesy of the Pennington County Fire Service

BOX ELDER, S.D. — On Friday, May 20 at approximately 11 a.m., officers from the Box Elder Police Department along with deputies from the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the 600 block of Box Elder Rd. West.

Officers were dispatched in response to a suspect who had cut off his electronic ankle monitor while on furlough from the Pennington County Jail. The male was identified as Robert Verner of Box Elder and was not located at the time of dispatch.

The Emergency Services Communications Center received a call from Verner’s longtime girlfriend at approximately 5 p.m. and reported that he had assaulted her and was currently inside their house — threatening to set it on fire if law enforcement were to show up.

She also reported that Verner had set her friend’s car on fire and popped two of her vehicle’s tires.

Officers arrived on scene at 5:21 p.m. and called out to the house for Verner to come out, but received no response. Officers then noticed the smell of gasoline coming from the house and immediately requested assistance from the fire and rescue department.

At around 5:40 p.m., flames first appeared from under the side door on the east side of the residence. The house was then fully engulfed by the fire within a few minutes.

After officers attempted to enter the house, only to find that the front and side doors were barricaded, the fire department took over. Once the fire was put out, officers conducted a thorough search of the house where they located Verner inside at approximately 8:15 p.m.

Verner was found wrapped in plastic and sitting in water in a crawl space under the house and was taken into custody and treated for hypothermia on scene. He was then taken by ambulance to Monument Health for evaluation.

The Red Cross was called for Verner’s girlfriend.

Verner currently faces one count of Arson in the 1st degree, one count of Simple Assault Domestic Violence and two counts of Intentional Damage to Private Property.

Categories: Crime, Local News