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December 11, 2008 3:49 am

Neighbor charged in Nickles' garage fire

Written by Tribune Staff

Police say the fire that claimed a North Douglas Street garage last month was started by a man living across the alleyway.

On Tuesday, charges of burglary and arson were filed against Joseph D. Ohrmund, 23. Those counts carry up to 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

The affidavit of probable cause filed in the case alleges that Ohrmund stole a stereo system, work tools, and beer from the garage belonging to Steve and Megan Nickles before setting the structure on fire.

At 4:44 a.m. on Nov. 12, the Powell Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the 349 N. Douglas St. garage, but the building was already engulfed in flames and was ultimately destroyed.

The losses from the blaze and alleged thefts are estimated at around $70,000.

After the fire, the Nickleses and investigators reported that items appeared to be missing from the structure's remains.

Steve and Megan Nickles' son Monty had parked his pick-up truck in the garage that night. Its newly-installed stereo system was never found in the rubble. While magnets from the stock, front speakers were located, fire investigator Kevin Hammons found no trace of the back speakers, amplifiers or subwoofers.

A screwdriver shaft was found behind the seat of the vehicle, where the equipment had been located. Monty told police that a screwdriver would have been needed to remove the speakers, and that he had not put the tool in his truck.

According to court documents, Ohrmund's girlfriend, Maggie Howe, told police she saw Ohrmund put a subwoofer and a tool kit in a storage cabinet the morning of the fire.

Steve Nickles had also reported that two drills and two tool boxes were missing from the garage's remains.

On Nov. 26, Nickles found some of his equipment at Northwest Trading Post on South Clark Street.

Pawn tickets from the store showed that Ohrmund had pawned the tools, court documents say.

Ohrmund told police they had been given to him by a friend, the affidavit says.

When contacted by police, the friend, John Owens, denied giving him tools. He said that days earlier, he had given Ohrmund a bucket of loose sockets and junk — nothing that could be pawned.

Ohrmund had been arrested Nov. 20 for failing to appear on unrelated misdemeanor charges out of Cody's municipal court.

According to the affidavit, Ohrmund moved to Powell from Thermopolis in October. He was living at 356 1/2 N. Cheyenne St.