Slidell apartment fire suspect may be linked to other fires

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David Rutledge

SLIDELL, La. (WGNO) – A Slidell-area man faces ten counts of attempted first-degree murder following his arrest on arson charges earlier this week.

The fire damaged or destroyed about 30 apartments at the Act X complex. St. Tammany deputies and firefighters joined federal agents to investigate the cause and say they found signs that an accelerant was used.

Sheriff Jack Strain says 58-year-old David Rutledge was a tenant at the apartments. Strain says that there’s plenty of evidence to prove Rutledge set the fire intentionally, but there’s no indication on why.

“We found no evidence of any type of problem or conflict with other individuals in the apartments, the things that would help us understand why I nearly 60-year-old person would commit such a crime, why would someone of that age endanger so many people,” Strain said.

At about 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 6, a deputy State Fire Marshal was driving by the Act X apartments and noticed the building was on fire.  At the same time, 911 was receiving calls reporting the fire.

Sheriff’s deputies, along with members of St. Tammany Fire Protection District #1 were able to evacuate the complex, preventing what could have been massive casualties in the fire.

Rutledge remains behind bars following his arrest earlier this week.

The sheriff says his deputies investigated Rutledge in 2013 in a smaller arson case but were unable to link him to the crime. Now deputies will review the evidence in that case.