MADERA COUNTY – At 1:30 p.m today in Department 21 of the Madera County Superior Court, Michael Lee Lapschies was arraigned on eight felony counts of arson and one felony count of making criminal threats.
Lapschies was arrested on Wednesday, Sept. 30, after a series of eight fires in the Bass Lake area. The first was reported just before 3 p.m. on Road 222 near Pettitt Road, with another near Miller’s Landing on the south shore of Bass Lake, and six more in the area of the Cal Fire Station on Road 223 near Road 426.
District Attorney David Linn appeared for the People at today’s hearing, and Lapschies was assigned a public defender.
Presiding Judge Ernie LiCalsi increased the defendant’s bail from $50,000 to $550,000 and ordered a pre-preliminary hearing and bail review be held Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 9 a.m., in Madera Superior Court in Bass Lake.
A date has also been set for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. in Bass Lake Court.
D.A. Linn stated that the bail amount of $550,000 was “very appropriate in a crime of this magnitude.”
Also present at today’s arraignment was Cal Fire Battalion Chief Bernie Quinn, who is investigating the series of fires and made the arrest.
Lapschies, 40, is a former resident of Coarsegold, a recent resident of Fresno, “and is now a resident of the Madera County Jail, and will be for a while,” said Linn.
No structures were lost or damaged in any of the fires. Lapschies was detained for questioning immediately after the last fire was ignited, and was booked into the Madera County Department of Corrections just after 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
Cal Fire, CHP, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service were all instrumental in identifying and locating the suspect, leading to the arrest.