Convicted arsonist Edward “Dawson” Moddrelle was supposed to report to jail last year – and the Grand County Attorney’s Office says he did.
Yet due to an administrative procedure, the 53-year-old Moab man was not admitted to the facility, and as of this week, he has not served any portion of the jail sentence he received in lieu of five years in state prison. At the same time, Moddrelle stands accused of violating every condition of his probation in the nine months since 7th District Judge Lyle R. Anderson suspended his prison sentence and instead placed him on court probation for three years.
Among many other allegations, an amended progress/violation report from the Adult Probation and Parole Office says that Moddrelle failed to serve 75 days in jail, and that he failed to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to the victims in the case.
The booking incident first came to light after the Grand County Attorney’s Office asked the Adult Probation and Parole Office to determine whether or not Moddrelle had served his court-ordered jail time.
Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said that although Moddrelle showed up at the jail, as required, he was turned away because the facility hadn’t received a copy of his commitment order.
“When he turned himself in, the jail didn’t have it,” Fitzgerald told the Moab Sun News on Tuesday, Feb. 28. “We’ve confirmed that’s true.”
Grand County Sheriff Steve White said that similar scenes unfold at the jail from time to time.
“Sometimes, that happens,” he said. “They’ll get them processed, but the judge hasn’t signed the paperwork or something like that.”
Generally speaking, White said, a person in Moddrelle’s situation would be asked to come back at another time, or to run over to the courthouse and get their paperwork signed. But until such orders have been formally approved, White said the sheriff’s office is reluctant to take a person into custody.
“I really don’t want to put people in jail without the proper paperwork,” he said.
If a person isn’t admitted to jail, White said that his office will inform the courts.
However, Moddrelle’s probation officer reported that he was not aware that Moddrelle failed to serve time in jail by the time he took over the case. He called Moddrelle’s actions a “blatant disregard” of the court’s orders, and a risk needs assessment that the probation officer and his supervisor signed places Moddrelle in a “high-risk” category.
“Adult Probation has given Mr. Moddrelle the benefit of the doubt, and tried to work with him, however he continues to take advantage of the situation,” the probation officer’s report says.
Moddrelle, who did not address the court at any length during two brief hearings on Feb. 28, is scheduled to appear at a probation violation hearing on Tuesday, March 14, at 1:30 p.m.
He pleaded guilty in April 2016 to third-degree felony arson, admitting that he intentionally set fire to his girlfriend’s storage unit at Skyline Storage just before Thanksgiving 2015. No one was injured during the incident, but the flames quickly spread, and 10 units at the 73-unit facility were damaged or destroyed by the fire and smoke, or water that firefighters used to douse the blaze.
The Moab Folk Festival rented a storage unit directly to the right of the one that Moddrelle set ablaze, and attorneys for the defense and prosecution calculated last year that Moddrelle owes the festival $5,750.
As of this week, the festival has not received any restitution for the damages it incurred during the fire. Yet despite the extensive damage to the festival’s greenroom furniture, equipment, rugs and a majority of its historic files, Moab Folk Festival founder and director Melissa Schmaedick is more upset about the heavy toll that the incident took on Skyline Storage owner Diane Child.
Child, who had been battling ovarian cancer for the last three years, passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 15, and Schmaedick said that her close friend continued to suffer many blows as a result of Moddrelle’s actions.
“She’s certainly the primary victim here,” Schmaedick said. “It had a huge impact on her livelihood, and she had to deal with so much stress as a result of this.”
“That’s exactly what Diane did not need at that time in her life, and it’s sad that people don’t think about the consequences of their actions, or care about the consequences of their actions,” Child’s sister, Kathi Child, added.
Diane Child told the Moab Sun News in November 2015 that the incident had upended her life – as well as her tenants’ lives. At the time, she said she was alarmed by the possibility that Moddrelle could be sentenced to probation, without serving any additional time in jail or state prison.
“If he gets off with a slap on the wrist, I’m going to have to take further action,” she said.
Diane Child said she hoped it wouldn’t come to that, though, because of the additional costs, stresses and uncertainties that she would likely face.
More than one year later, Schmaedick said that Diane Child was still struggling to pay for fire-related damages that insurance companies refused to cover, on top of her own medical bills.
“She died with the stress of the debt left on her,” Schmaedick told Judge Anderson during Moddrelle’s court hearing.
Kathi Child expressed disappointment that Moddrelle has yet to face any real consequences for his actions.
“It’s just kind of a shame that someone could do that and cause that disruption, and walk around free with no consequences,” she told the Moab Sun News.
At the time of the May 2016 sentencing, the judge gave Moddrelle more than five months to come up with a projected $3,500 in initial restitution, and he linked the payments to the amount of jail time that Moddrelle served: For every $50 that Moddrelle was supposed to pay his victims between the sentencing and the day he reported to jail, he would spend one less day in jail.
Schmaedick said she believes that the judge was “incredibly kind” when he imposed that sentence, but for Child’s sake, Schmaedick urged the judge to act in the victims’ interests.
“I am so frustrated, and I implore you to please do something,” she said.
Grand County Public Defender Don Torgerson told the court in May 2016 that his client is committed to making amends, while Moddrelle said that he would “proudly” give whatever he had to help his victims.
However, Moddrelle currently owes the victims a combined total of more than $23,414, and the probation officer’s report alleges that he’s paid just $50 in court fines, public defender’s fees or other costs to date.
By ordering Moddrelle to report to jail in November 2016, Judge Anderson gave him more time to find employment, and thereby place himself in a financial position to pay restitution. Although a local motel subsequently hired him, Moddrelle has been unemployed since December 2016, and Schmaedick questioned his commitment to following the court’s orders.
“For me, it’s just unconscionable,” she told the Moab Sun News. “He’s just been goofing around. What the hell has he been doing?”
With no help to date from Moddrelle, the folk festival has set up a verified GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/tqcq7yes, and so far, it’s raised more than $1,600 to recoup its losses.
Diane Child, meanwhile, did not reach out to others for help, Schmaedick said – although her estate could certainly use it.
“I think that Diane was just the kind of person who wouldn’t have wanted to ask for handouts,” Schmaedick said. “She was just a very strong and generous person.”
Authorities say Moddrelle skipped jail sentence, court-ordered restitution
If you would like to contribute to the Moab Folk Festival’s fire recovery fund, go to: www.gofundme.com/tqcq7yes.
It’s just kind of a shame that someone could do that and cause that disruption, and walk around free with no consequences.