Mason County authorities charged a 41-year-old man with two counts of arson for his suspected involvement in a fire that destroyed a 111-year-old courthouse.
Nicholas J. Miller was arrested Friday, Feb. 5, following a vehicle chase on Interstate 35 that started in Georgetown and ended in McLennan County near Waco. Texas Department of Public Safety troopers used spikes to disable a pickup truck driven by the man. He eventually stopped the vehicle and was arrested without incident.
Troopers booked him into the McLennan County Jail on charges of evading arrest and unlawful possession of a firearm. On Saturday, Feb. 6, Mason County officials tacked on two first-degree felony counts of arson and one count of burglary of a building. He is being held on $1.8 million in bonds.
At about 9:50 p.m. Feb. 4, Mason County volunteer firefighters responded to a residential fire in the 300 block of Ranck Street. About 15 minutes later, the Mason County Courthouse fire alarm went off.
Additional fire units from surrounding counties responded.
The fire fully engulfed the 111-year-old courthouse. When fire crews finally put out the fire, all that was left standing were the four rock walls and columns, according to Mason County Judge James Bearden. In December, the county had removed documents from the structure in preparation for renovations. However, much of the antique and some original furniture in the courthouse was destroyed in the blaze.
According to a Mason County media release, when volunteer firefighters returned to the fire station, they found several vehicles had been broken into and burglarized. Law enforcement officers were able to gather information connecting the vehicle burglaries to Miller.
Bearden said the county would rebuild the courthouse. The Commercial Bank of Mason has established a fund to support the rebuild. Donations may be mailed to Mason County Rebuild Our Courthouse, P.O. Box 40, Mason TX, 76856. Call the bank at 325-347-6324 for more information.