A judge set bail at $1 million for a Vancouver man accused of setting a car on fire with human remains inside in his Hazel Dell driveway.
Logan Melchert, 35, appeared Monday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree arson and unlawful disposal of human remains. He is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 11.
Deputy Prosecutor Chris Glinski said the investigation is ongoing, and there’s a potential for more serious charges in the case.
On Aug. 8, a woman traveled from New Jersey to Vancouver to report her son missing. She said she hadn’t heard from him in about two weeks, which was unusual. She told Clark County sheriff’s deputies she last knew him to be living at 7204 N.W. Overlook Drive with Melchert and his sister. She said Melchert’s father died earlier this year, leaving the three of them living at the house, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The woman said she was in contact with Melchert’s sister, but the sister had been in a Seattle hospital for weeks. She also talked to Melchert at the house, she said, but he told her he hadn’t heard from her son in about two weeks. Deputies initially couldn’t contact Melchert, his sister or the woman’s son, court records state.
Then, Clark County Fire District 6 responded at 1:34 a.m. Aug. 19 to the house for a car on fire behind a gate in the driveway. They contacted a man, who deputies say matched Melchert’s description, in the yard, and he refused to let them onto the property; firefighters said he threatened to have his aggressive dogs bite them. The firefighters watched from the street as he put out the car fire with a garden hose, the affidavit states.
On Aug. 21, the woman again contacted the sheriff’s office and said she still hadn’t heard from her son. A deputy went to the house on Overlook Drive, and he saw a Kia Soul behind a fence that appeared to be severely burned. The deputy said he saw a man, later identified as Melchert, in the yard walking toward the vehicle with a shovel, according to court records.
The deputy said Melchert told him he’d seen his roommate five to seven days ago and that his roommate had set his car on fire and then left, the affidavit states.
While the deputy was talking to Melchert, he smelled a strong odor, and he later contacted detectives with the Major Crimes Unit, according to court records.
The deputy arrested Melchert on an outstanding warrant. Court records show Melchert had a warrant out of Clackamas County, Ore., for two counts each of third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and recklessly endangering another person, along with one count each of second-degree criminal mischief and driving under the influence.
When detectives arrived, they said they could smell a strong odor of decomposition from where the burned Kia Soul was parked. The Kia was registered to Melchert’s father, investigators said.
When they searched the vehicle, detectives found human remains in the backseat, under a tarp. Detectives called for more investigative resources and secured the scene overnight, according to the affidavit.
The next morning, the Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team and a federal arson investigator responded to assist. Investigators from the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office recovered the remains, which they identified to be those of a man. They said due to the advanced decomposition, the man had been dead long before the remains were burned in the fire, court records state.
The medical examiner’s office has not released the identity of the remains or a cause and manner of death.
Detectives also searched a backpack Melchert was wearing when he was arrested on the outstanding warrant. Inside, they found two lighters, two butane torches and a can of butane fuel, the affidavit states.
Court records state Melchert declined to answer detectives’ questions.
Detectives also searched Melchert’s phone. They found internet search history between July 26 and Aug. 9 about fire, removing the backseat of a Kia Soul, the time it takes for a body to decompose and how to eliminate strong odors, according to the affidavit.