Purchase photos

Arson reward rises





The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for a rash of fires in rural Ellis County continues to grow, as the investigation remains a high priority for the sheriff's office.

Currently, the reward stands at slightly more than $3,900, and Chris Miller would like to see that amount rise more.

It's already nearly doubled since the last bout of four suspicious fires were reported in early April -- just hours after a story about the reward fund and the ongoing investigation was published in The Hays Daily News.

It's a coincidence that wasn't lost on Miller, who already has been a victim of the arsonist.

Meanwhile, Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin said his department continues to actively track down every lead, as the fires remain a priority for investigators.

Harbin said lead detective Brad Ricke last week was meeting again with investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office to review evidence collected.

So far, 24 fires are being considered suspicious, among them a fire that caused more than $50,000 in damage to property owned by Miller.

"We're collecting money to provide an incentive to somebody to come forward and provide information," Miller said of the reason behind the push for the reward.

While the reward fund keeps growing, Miller hopes it continues until someone steps forward.

But he doesn't want people with information to contact him; that call instead needs to go to the sheriff's office, Miller said.

"If you have information, I don't want it," he said. "I'm just hoping to give a boost to the sheriff's office to help them catch the guilty party."

But that's not to say Miller is any different from other Ellis County residents, and hasn't heard the rumors flying about.

If he hears something that might be crucial to the investigation, he calls Ricke.

"I've known him a long time, and I know he's heading up the investigation," Miller said. "I don't know anything other than that. I'm doing everything I can to keep this in everybody's mind."

As for the investigation, Harbin continues to play his cards close to his chest, unwilling to reveal too much out of concern for derailing the investigation.

"We've had some good leads we're following up on," he said.

Harbin did say the investigation continues to be a top priority for the department, and deputies are continuing their saturation patrols in the county as much as possible.

And the department continues to accept and follow up on leads into the investigation, he said.