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Inside The YLP Arson Investigation

The first fire in the series was on Saturday, May 11, along Yosemite Springs Parkway, the second the next day, Mothers Day, on Ranger Circle. Both were what Moreno referred to as “road fires,” distinguishing them from the 10 that burned near the defendants’ home on East Revis Circle.

On Saturday, May 18, a fire broke out behind the home of the defendant’s neighbor on Revis Road, and the next day, Sunday May 19, a fire on Lilley Mountain Drive was the first where investigators say they found what is described as a delayed incendiary device – a cigarette that had match heads inserted just above the butt, allowing the item to be tossed out the window, then burn down to ignite the match heads and catch fire to the dry vegetation along the roadway. This fire burned 91 acres and destroyed a home off Big River Way.

At this point, investigators concluded that they were seeing a pattern of possible arson fires, and Cal Fire Chief Bernie Quinn requested more resources from Sacramento, including cameras and more officers.

They installed surveillance cameras at either end of Yosemite Springs Parkway, at Road 400 and 415, and on Lilley Mountain Drive. They also began collecting data from a camera at a private residence along John Muir Drive. At some point Yosemite Lakes Park (YLP) Security installed a camera on East Revis Circle where the defendants live, but that wasn’t until later when the couple had been identified as possible suspects.

On Wednesday, May 22, two fires broke out behind the defendants home at around 8:30 p.m., and on Friday, May 24, a brush pile on Road 415 burned at 5:23 p.m.

Saturday, June 1, another incendiary device was found in the origin area of a fire, and the following Saturday, June 8, a fire along Road 415 yielded the first video evidence of Jackson’s lifted black pickup truck driving in a direction away from the scene just prior to the fire being reported.

The next day, Sunday, June 9, firefighters and investigators scrambled to deal with four fires, the first at 10:49 a.m. on Road 425B near Oakhurst, the next at 11:55 a.m. on Lilley Mountain Drive in YLP and another at 2:57 p.m. on John Muir. On each of these fires, investigators say Jackson’s truck was captured within a 20 minute time window, either going toward or away from the area of the fire, or both. That evening, a fourth fire was reported at 6:47 p.m. behind the defendants’ house on East Revis Circle.

The very next day, June 10 at 8:37 p.m., firefighters responded to two more fires behind the Jackson/Waterman house. This time, Waterman told investigators that she saw the first one start in a draw near their driveway.

Wednesday, June 12 at 2:51 p.m. a fire along Yosemite Springs Parkway burned six acres, followed by another fire behind the defendants’ home at 4:38 p.m. that burned over 50 acres, and another near the same location at 9:41 p.m.

Investigators by now had identified Jackson and Waterman as possible suspects and had set up surveillance near a vacant house next door to the defendants’ residence. On Friday, June 14, at 7:26 p.m. one of the covert operators said he saw someone he later identified as Waterman come down the driveway, disappear behind the house, then walk back to her residence. Moments later, he heard the crackling of a fire and went to investigate.

At this point, he says Waterman came back down the driveway and saw him, and the two got into a yelling match, at which point he radioed for his support team to come and pick him up. The white Jeep Liberty they were driving became the subject of much speculation, as residents surmised it must be the arsonists driving it, and one young man even chased it on his bicycle to get the plate number.

Moreno told the jury that at this point, the defendants realized they were being watched and there were no more fires around their house until the night of their arrest on June 25.

Two days later on June 16, three fires started along the roadways, One on Road 400 at 1:21 p.m., another on John Muir Drive at 3:35 p.m. and a third on Highway 41 at Mecca Lane at 8:16 p.m. Again, Jackson’s truck was caught on video within minutes of each fire being reported, either going toward or away from the fire, and in one instance, both.

Thursday, June 20, a fire on Road 415 at 1:46 a.m. was quickly followed by another just up Highway 41 off Road 416 at 1:58 p.m. Moreno told the jury that Jackson’s truck was captured on camera in the vicinity of both these fires also.

On Sunday, June 23, two fires on the Oakhurst area, just after 10 a.m., were followed by another along Road 400 at 3:31 p.m., that burned nearly 20 acres.

Though a witness from the Napa Auto Parts store in Coarsegold testified that Jackson was in the store that morning at 9:45 a.m., a camera along Yosemite Springs Parkway (YSP) showed Jackson’s truck southbound on that road, nearing Highway 41, at 9:49 a.m.

As to the fire at 3:31, the evidence showed Jackson’s truck five times in the “target area” of this fire, first headed north on YSP at 3:16, headed south on YSP at 3:18, headed north again at 3:41, and once more at 3:52. He then stopped, got out of his truck and talked to Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson at the scene of the fire.

Chief Bernie Quinn had testified that he was northbound on YSP conducting “loose surveillance,” and that at 3:20 p.m. he passed by Jackson, who was headed away from the area of the fire. He said that Jackson didn’t even see him because he was intently focused on his rear view mirror, looking back toward the area where the fire would be reported some 11 minutes later.

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