Liberal, KS

Now: 78 °

Currently: Clear

Hi: 79 ° | Lo: 65 °

Suspect Arrested in Arson Investigation

Joe Denoyer - March 8, 2021 8:01 pm



An arson investigation conducted jointly by Texas County Sheriff’s Department and the State of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture has resulted in the arrest of Justin Wynn Talmadge, age 18, of Ulysses, Kansas.

At the conclusion of the investigation, that spanned over a three-month period and included four separate fires that damaged approximately 336 residual crop bales and approximately 900 acres of CRP Grass and prairieland, Talmadge was taken into custody after giving a full confession to Texas County Sheriff Investigator Lieutenant Andy Walters and Department of Agriculture Agent Paul Cornett. Talmadge admitted to igniting the fires and then reporting the fires. Talmadge is charged with four felony counts of Arson in the Third Degree and four felony counts of Endangering or Causing Personal Injury to Human Life.

Talmadge is being held at the Texas County Detention Center without bond pending his initial appearance in front of the Associate District Judge.

On January 15, 2021, area fire departments and law enforcement responded to the area of County Road CC and Mile 20.5 for a grass fire. Texas County was under a high wind and dust storm warning on that day. A County Commissioner obtained information that a suspicious vehicle was seen in the area shortly before the fire started. Texas County Undersheriff Benji Fuentes had seen the vehicle in the area during the fire and was able to locate the vehicle several hours after the fire. Witnesses also provided information that the vehicle had been seen at a grass fire three days prior, near County Road AA and Mile 21.

The Texas County Sheriff’s Department began gathering information about the vehicle and Talmadge. Undersheriff Fuentes requested assistance from Agents with the State of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. Law Enforcement was able to conduct intermittent surveillance and gather intelligence from Kansas authorities that aided in the investigation.

On February 22, 2021 a fire involving 336 residual crop bales was reported near County Road GG and State Highway 136. Witnesses were able to give information on a second vehicle that the investigation had linked to Talmadge.

On March 4, 2021 a wildland fire was reported near Mile 28 and County Road S. Witnesses were able to give information about the second vehicle linked to Talmadge and had spoken with and obtained video of Talmadge on the scene.

KSCB Radio News