It’s been 15 months since an arson fire gutted the Oak Street home of Safe Haven Wellness and Recovery Center, but the crime scene tape was only just removed on Monday so the building could be demolished.
It took only a few minutes for three backhoes to turn the historic home into rubble, and the rest of the day for the crew to remove most of the material and debris.
Colusa County Behavioral Health had celebrated the grand opening of the mental health and substance abuse treatment facility at that location just one month prior to the Oct. 24, 2019, fire that occurred around 5:15 AM.
According to court documents, fire officials were immediately suspicious of the blaze, which appeared to have originated near the northeast wall of the interior.
Robert Dean Cates, 73, a former peer leader with the group, was charged with starting the fire, after he was identified from surveillance video that was positioned within the facility, according to testimony at Cates’ preliminary hearing last year.
Cates, who is also known as Robert Dean Koym, has pleaded not guilty to felony arson and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, which was discovered when a search warrant was served on his Main Street residence, officials said.
Cates is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 8 to reset the date of trial, which was postponed on Jan. 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ♣