VISTA — A psychiatric technician pleaded not guilty to a judge in a Vista courtroom on Dec. 8 to arson and burglary charges that allege he set his estranged wife’s Carlsbad house on fire.
The only occupants at home during the Dec. 2 fire on Ann Drive in Carlsbad were a dog and a cat, but no one was injured, according to the Carlsbad Fire Department.
But a fire marshal said the internal damage to the structure caused the house to become uninhabitable for about six to eight weeks.
Stuart Haggard, 48, is in the Vista Detention Facility on $500,000 bail, which is an enhanced amount.
Judge Marshall Y. Hockett refused a request to lower the bail at Haggard’s arraignment.
Craig Poynter, public defender who supervises arraignments, requested the bail decrease and for Haggard to be assigned a public defender.
A hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 22.
“The defendant set fire to his estranged wife’s house,” said Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe, prosecutor on the case.
He told the court that Haggard and his wife had been married for 19 years until Haggard was recently kicked out of the house.
“The wife obtained a T.R.O. (temporary restraining order) in November. He (Haggard) was kicked out and moved into his separate residence,” he said.
On the morning of the fire, police records show that a 9-1-1 call was made from a person who said she thought she saw from her window that a house was on fire but that she wasn’t sure.
Gregory Ryan, deputy fire marshal with the Carlsbad Fire Department, said the flames were just starting to show themselves when the fire department arrived at the house on Ann Drive.
He said the fire was confined to a wardrobe closet enclosure that had a washer and dryer in it.
He said there was a lot of heat damage. “The complete interior was heavily damaged by smoke,” Ryan said.
Watanabe said the fire was started after Haggard broke the gas line and then turned on the dryer, knowing that the pilot light was on.
He said that the fire investigator on the case said the fire was intentionally set.
At 9:13 a.m., Haggard was seen leaving the scene as the fire department was responding, Watanabe said.
“Initially he claimed he went to his wife’s house and realized her house was on fire,” he said.
Later that same day, the Escondido Police department received a call of a suicide attempt.
“At 4:54 p.m., Escondido responded that the defendant cut his arms in a suicide attempt,” Watanabe said. “He hurt himself to avoid going to jail,”
Records show that Haggard was sent to Palomar Medical Center for a 72-hour mental evaluation, which became the location of his arrest on Dec. 6.
“I find you are a danger to your wife, yourself and this community,” Judge Marshall Y. Hockett said.
He said Haggard’s estranged wife was now a protected person of the court and ordered Haggard to have no communication with her, which included writing a letter or making a phone call to her.