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Suspect in custody for series of vehicle fires

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County resident Jason Van Winkle, 36, remains in the county jail, charged with five felonies that include two counts of burglary of a habitat and two counts of arson, as well as possession of a PG 1 controlled substance.
However, Van Winkle's road to the local lockup was long and winding, according to Bandera County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Matt King. The suspect was arrested in Oklahoma on March 5 while driving a stolen vehicle. Additionally outstanding warrants had been issued from Bandera County, stating that he was wanted in connection with several alleged vehicle fires.
BCSO Investigators David McGilvray and Allan Tucker took the 12-hour, one-way trek from Texas to the Sooner State to extradite Van Winkle. He was booked into the Bandera County Jail on Wednesday, March 19, where he remains.
According to Fire Marshal John Stith, Van Winkle had already been indicted on a second-degree felony in connection with a vehicle fire that occurred on Jan. 15 on Oak Lawn in the Wharton's Dock area.
Now Van Winkle remains the primary suspect in a pair of vehicle fires that occurred on March 2, King said. The latest round of blazes destroyed a 2008 Chevrolet Impala and a 2010 Saab. The fires, which took place on Iroquois Trail, also spread to a house, according to reports. "We have very strong evidence that points to Van Winkle as the perpetrator," King said.
Stith indicated that the new arson charges against Van Winkle would probably go before the next Bandera County Grand Jury, slated for Tuesday, April 8. Additionally, it was anticipated the charges might be bumped up to a first-degree felony, due to Van Winkle's prior history of criminal behavior.
No stranger to local law enforcement, Van Winkle's first run-in with the law occurred in 1993 when he was caught - coincidentally - driving a stolen vehicle, King said.