• Jonah Watson, a 26-year-old Nevada man, is currently awaiting trial on arson charges after allegedly destroying three historic buildings in his hometown of Dayton, Nevada.
  • Watson is now accused of starting two bush fires on the Fourth of July, which posed a threat to several homes on the west edge of Dayton.
  • According to Watson’s lawyer, a judge ruled him incompetent to stand trial, and he has been trying to secure mental health treatment for months. However, due to a shortage of eligible services in northern Nevada, his efforts have been unsuccessful.

A man from northern Nevada, who is awaiting trial for arson charges related to the destruction of three historic buildings in Dayton last year, has now been accused of starting two brush fires that endangered multiple structures in the rural town on the Fourth of July.

The suspect, Jonah Watson, 26, was arrested and booked into the Lyon County jail on two counts of third-degree arson and two counts of reckless endangerment to the public. This occurred while Watson was out on bail for the previous arson case. His new bail has been set at $15,000.

Watson’s attorney, Theresa Ristenpart, stated that a judge had previously deemed him incompetent to stand trial. Ristenpart also mentioned that her client has been unsuccessfully attempting to receive mental health treatment for months due to a lack of available services in northern Nevada.

The sheriff’s office reported that firefighters responded to a rapidly spreading brush fire on the west edge of Dayton, threatening multiple structures. Concerned citizens assisted fire crews in extinguishing the blaze before any buildings were harmed. However, shortly after, another fire broke out about a mile away, jeopardizing homes and businesses in the southeast side of town.


A man who is awaiting an arson trial is being accused of starting a pair of brush fires that threatened multiple homes on the Fourth of July. (Fox News)

The sheriff’s office confirmed that multiple witnesses identified Watson at the scene of both fires. Additionally, further evidence led investigators to conclude that he was responsible for starting the fires.

Another fire, occurring on October 13, 2022, led to Watson’s previous arrest. This fire destroyed three century-old buildings, including the historic Fox Hotel, located in Old Town Dayton. Watson had posted a $95,000 bond in December and was subsequently released from jail on three arson counts related to that incident.

According to Lyon County District Attorney Stephen Rye, Watson’s last court appearance took place on June 8. The date for his next court hearing is currently pending.

Ristenpart, the defense lawyer representing Watson, mentioned in an email to The Associated Press that the court had previously determined his incompetence to stand trial. She added, “For months, we have been trying to secure mental health treatment for Watson, but there are precious few resources in our community.”

Ristenpart further explained that in all of northern Nevada, Lake’s Crossing in Sparks is the only hospital that accepts mentally ill defendants involved in the criminal justice system and found incompetent to stand trial. Unfortunately, they were waiting on resources to become available at Lake’s Crossing prior to Watson’s recent arrest and the new allegation against him.

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