Pamplin Media Group – Suspected Weil Arcade arsonist faces murder charge

Roel Leon, 34, is suspected of starting the January blaze and now faces more serious charges.

The person suspected of starting the downtown Hillsboro fire that destroyed the Weil Arcade building in January has been charged with new charges following the discovery of a body inside the wreckage.

Roel Leon, 34, has previously been charged with second-degree arson and first-degree robbery related to the fire and other incidents in downtown Hillsboro. But the latest development comes after fire crews and police detectives found the remains of a deceased man in the wreckage of the Weil Arcade.

The deceased has been identified as Ronald William Knapp, 40. His cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation, according to the Hillsboro Police Department.

Due to this discovery, new evidence was presented to a grand jury and additional charges were added to Leon’s indictment on Tuesday, February 15. Leon now faces more serious charges of first-degree arson and second-degree murder.

Leon is believed to have started the blaze on Jan. 2 which burned for more than eight hours and took more than 130 firefighters from across the Portland metro area to put it out. It took Hillsboro fire and rescue crews days to extinguish all remaining hot spots.

Eight businesses were directly displaced by the fire, and several others in the area were affected by the heat and smoke.

Leon was arrested on January 5 and has since been incarcerated in Washington County Jail.

Leon is also suspected of torching two vehicles in the area the same night and committing a burglary in Hillsboro on Dec. 4.

Second-degree murder is a Measure 11 offense, punishable by life imprisonment if convicted.


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