April 23rd, 2024

Suspect in hotel fire back in custody

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on March 14, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 30-year-old man who disappeared for several months after he was charged with setting fire to the historic Lethbridge Hotel early last year, is back in custody and facing a new charge of failing to comply with release conditions.

The new charge against Michael Randall Big Swan was in Lethbridge court of justice Tuesday, where Lethbridge lawyer Scott Hadford appeared on behalf of the accused and requested a short adjournment.

A warrant was issued for Big Swan last November after he had failed to attend court numerous times and after his previous lawyer subsequently asked to be released as his counsel.

“Mr. Big Swan has not responded to calls or emails,” Calgary lawyer Kirsten Lancee told court on Nov. 27. “I can also advise that the last means of communication, which was to contact his case worker, did not produce fruitful results, therefore sir, although I can’t tell the court he is aware of today’s appearance, I can tell the court we’ve made multiple attempts since Oct. 15 to regain contact.”

In addition to his new charge of failing to comply, Big Swan faces one charge of shopbreaking and commit arson relating to a fire Feb. 24 that destroyed the Lethbridge Hotel on the corner of 5 Street and 2 Avenue South downtown. Following an investigation and remediation of material because of asbestos contamination, investigators determined the fire had been deliberately set. The site has since been cleared.

Police subsequently identified a suspect, and on April 6 Big Swan was arrested without incident and charged.

During Monday’s court hearing Justice Sylvia Oishi noted the arson charge is nearly a year old and there have been 17 previous court hearings on the matter. She suggested the defence be prepared to take a step when the case returns to court next week.

Less than a month before the hotel fire, a fire destroyed the historic Bow On Tong building just a block to the east of the hotel. What remained of the building had to be demolished before investigators could safely do their job, and because of the extensive damage the cause of the fire could not be determined.

Police suspected the Bow On Tong fire was also deliberately set and they identified a person of interest, but there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges. There isn’t any evidence to suggest the two fires were connected, police said.

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pursuit diver

This is only one example of many, just how much disrespect many of the people, not the truly homeless, but the criminals, who hang out all day and night on our streets have for society, for personal property, for justice.
This is from not having deterrents enforced and a poor penal system, where drug abuse is prevalent. This person impacted many of the businesses in area as well, and in one case the owner was not able to continue and had to close!
They make a joke out of our judicial system!

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