Homeless man charged with arson for Belleville fires

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI) - A man who allegedly set three fires in Belleville last week is now behind bars.

He now faces three arson-related charges.

Seven days later, the smell of smoke still permeates the air around a West Main Street home.

The early morning fire was spotted by Rose Harris, who was opening up Brite-Way Cleaners across the street.  She saw the flames, but not what caused them.

Police say it was one of three fires set that morning in Belleville.  Forty minutes earlier, at around 6:15 in the morning, firefighters responded to a parked car, engulfed in flames.  Then, around 7:15 a third fire was set near a gas meter, at the back of an apartment building on the 2700-block of Godfrey.

Each of these fires were within about 10 blocks of one another, all set within an hour.

Belleville Police Sgt. Mark Heffernan says fire department investigators determined the fires were arson, and related.

Police utilized witness accounts and surveillance video to crack the case.  Heffernan says there was a piece of evidence left at the scene, which led directly to the suspect: "All those combined let us know that those fires were linked together."

Late Sunday night, the alleged arsonist, 26-year-old Aaron Eldredge, was arrested in Swansea.  Police say he's homeless, and had no apparent reason to target that car, house, or apartment building: "Our investigation is ongoing, but at this point, it appears to be random acts."

For the three fires he allegedly set, Eldredge is now charged with arson, residential arson, and one count of attempted aggravated arson, because the fire he allegedly set near these gas meters at this apartment building didn't fully ignite.

Resident Ben Ellis says he and his neighbors were shocked by the arson attempt, and are glad the suspect is now behind bars.  He says, "We don't do harm to anyone around here, we try to help people, so for someone to come and try to have us homeless before Christmas, that's crazy."

Eldredge is being held in the St. Clair County Jail, in lieu of a $75,000 bond. ​

Previous Coverage:

Belleville residents on edge after 3 fires are set within an hour

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