A Riverside County man suspected of setting a fire that engulfed a three-story oceanfront home under construction in Hermosa Beach and damaged four other nearby residences pleaded not guilty Tuesday to five arson charges.
Keith Yessner, 50, of La Quinta, is charged with four counts of arson of an inhabited structure and one count of arson of a structure or forest. He was ordered to be held in lieu of $250,000 bail pending his next court date on July 2, when a judge is expected to schedule a preliminary hearing.
The blaze, which resulted in the evacuation of a half-dozen residents, was reported shortly before 2 a.m. last Thursday in the 800 block of Beach Drive and was extinguished in about an hour by county firefighters assisted by personnel from the Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and Redondo Beach fire departments. One firefighter was treated at a hospital for a minor injury.
“Witnesses reported seeing a male subject inside the structure walk out just as the fire ignited,” Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Mick Gaglia said in a statement released last Friday. “A description was given and officers — after evacuating homes in danger — began a search for the suspect.”
Yessner was arrested last Thursday night in the 1600 block of Beach Drive, after Hermosa Beach police officers said they recognized him from surveillance video in connection with the two-alarm blaze.
Another suspect in the case was cleared of involvement and released just hours before Yessner was taken into custody. Officers had thought he matched the description of the arsonist, but further investigation revealed that he was not responsible, Gaglia said. He said Yessner — who had “previous contacts” with Hermosa Beach police — was recognized once the video footage became available.
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