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Trial set for accused arsonist

Trial has been set for Dec. 3 for the man accused of setting fire to the Safe Haven Wellness and Recovery Center.

Robert Dean Cates, 73, also known as Robert Dean Koym, is accused of setting a fire on Oct. 24, 2019, that gutted the building located at 517 Oak St., in Colusa, and damaged the west wall of the historic United Methodist Church.

Safe Haven is a peer-supported drop-in center that is used by adults dealing with mental health issues, alcoholism, and substance abuse. The group had just celebrated the grand opening of the center at its new location a month prior to the fire, officials said.

According to court documents, fire investigators were immediately suspicious of the blaze, which appeared to have originated near the northeast wall of the interior.

Cates, who previously held a leadership position with the group, is reported to have used keys to enter the building immediately prior to the fire, and was identified on surveillance footage from cameras positioned at the facility, court records indicate.

Investigators believe that Cates’ motive for the fire was that he was upset he had not been reelected to the peer board that receives and assists with providing services.

Cates has pleaded not guilty to arson. He remains out of custody on $75,000 bail.

On the day of his arrest, Cates was also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, after a .22 caliber long rifle was discovered by Colusa County District Attorney investigators, when a search warrant was served on his Main Street residence.

Cates has a lengthy criminal history, court records indicate.

In 1997, Cates, then using the name Robert Dean Koym, was charged with murder in the shooting death of Bolivar Delgado, but was convicted by a jury of criminally negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence after the only witness to the shooting refused to testify.

Cates (Koym) testified that the three men had been drinking in the apartment of Tim Jolly, an acquaintance, when he (Koym) left to fetch his shotgun from his nearby apartment, in order to show and possibly sell the gun to Delgado.

According to Alaskan court records, Cates (Koym) said he did not know the weapon was loaded when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting Delgado in the stomach, during a struggle with Jolly, who had tried to take possession of the gun.

Although Jolly, who called 911 immediately after the incident, told police that Cates (Koym) pointed and fired the weapon at Delgado and then left the apartment, Jolly never took the witness stand on the grounds that he could incriminate himself, court records show.

Cates was arrested, and the shotgun retrieved from a snowbank where it was buried, about an hour after the shooting, after Cates (Koym) reportedly went to the residence of another friend and told him what had happened and where the weapon could be found.

According to court records, Cates has a number of alcohol related crimes, including several for intoxicated driving, including a Colusa County DUI conviction in 2010.

While investigating the fire, DA officials discovered Cates has a lengthy criminal history in California, dating to the 1970s, including allegations involving burglary, vehicle theft, and carrying a concealed weapon. Alaskan records indicate that he was convicted of two misdemeanor assaults in 1991, one of which was committed on Cates’ (Koym’s) girlfriend, and another on a man Cates (Koym) suspected of “being too friendly” with his girlfriend. On both occasions, Cates (Koym) was intoxicated, records show.

Cates is scheduled for a trial readiness conference on Nov. 4.

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