WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The man suspected of starting grass and structure fires in past months has now been charged with and named in connection to additional recent fires.
Waylon Buckingham, 30, was charged with the fire at the China Star restaurant in April and has been named in connection to the investigation of a church fire and the large Grasshopper fire in July that destroyed two structures and resulted in a heat exhaustion case of a civilian who required medical treatment.
Since his first charge of arson and criminal trespass, Buckingham has had the other arson charge added, as well as two business burglaries, theft of a church trailer and altering a price tag.
He is being investigated for another stolen church trailer and other possible arsons.
The second arson charge is for a three-alarm fire at China Star on April 12, and one of his burglary charges is for a burglary at that restaurant four days before the fire. The restaurant was closed at the time of the burglary and arson due to an earlier fire.
Fire investigators later detected positive results of accelerant in the point of origin in the kitchen area.
That restaurant remains closed as owners await insurance settlements. The owners had also reported burglaries with numerous items taken around the time of the fires.
Investigators said electronic analysis of cell phone data near the restaurant showed a phone listed to a man with the same last name as Waylon Buckingham who was connected to the fire investigation and was near the restaurant before the fire, and remained there throughout the firefighting operation before leaving the area.
On July 29, the large Grasshopper fire broke out in the area of East Hatton and Hammon roads. It was determined to be suspicious and spread rapidly, destroying two structures and burning about 400 acres. Investigators said cell data showed the phone that was recorded at the China Star fire, as well as a phone listed as Waylon Buckingham’s, was in the area of the fire just minutes before it started.
Also included in the China Star fire probable cause affidavit is the investigation of a fire at Freedom Baptist Church on September 19, which an arson investigator said had come to his attention due to a burglary and attempted arson there on September 16.
A church representative told us the church is believed a total loss.
It was after this fire that investigators began surveillance of Buckingham, which led to his arrest after fires on September 18.
As of this posting, formal charges on the Grasshopper fire and church fire have not been filed.
The search warrant served on Buckingham’s home on Sand Beach Road, besides recovering items stolen from China Star, also led to two trailers in the backyard believed stolen by churches.
One belonged to Faith Village Church of Christ and had been repainted.
Another charge filed on Buckingham came when authorities who had him under surveillance in a Walmart where he had been banned observed a video they said showed him scanning a lower price bar code for other more expensive items just before the fires were reported on September 18.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available. All individuals charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.