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Eviction prompted fire, records show


A 43-year-old man suspected of starting a rooming house fire last month that killed one person and left 22 people homeless was upset that he had been evicted from the two-story Liliha structure, according to Honolulu District Court documents.

A preliminary hearing for James Kimo Moses — charged with second-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, six counts of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson and three drug violations — was slated for this afternoon in District Court. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Moses is accused of setting the fire at 1909 Liliha St. just after midnight Feb. 2 using an accelerant.

When Moses was arrested at a homeless encampment Thursday at Ahui and Olomehani streets in Kakaako, he had numerous packets of drugs, marked for sale, court documents said.

Killed in the fire was occupant Clarence Isobe, whose body was found in the front of the building’s second floor. The Medical Examiner’s Office said Isobe died from burns over 50 percent of his body.

A witness told police that Moses was "extremely upset" because he had been evicted from the rooming house, according to court documents.

The landlord told police that Moses had been evicted because he believed the suspect had been dealing drugs, the documents said. He said he was suspicious of the "heavy foot traffic" to Moses’ room.

Moses denied setting the fire and told police that he was at a friend’s house at the time of the fire and had been smoking crystal methamphetamine, according to court documents. However, Moses’ friend said the two argued before the fire started and that Moses left and didn’t return until 1 that morning — after the fire started.

During Moses’ interrogation police noted an abrasion on his left shin and what appeared to be singed hair on his left wrist, according to court documents.

Another witness said Moses was seen standing on a private roadway, almost directly across from the burning building, the documents said.

The wooden building consisted of 18 individual units with shared bathrooms and kitchens, a nonconforming rooming house at least 68 years old.

Damage to the structure and contents was estimated at $300,000.


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