Charges dropped in Cottonwood Heights July 4 fire

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4 News) - It was a fire that caused dozens of homes to be evacuated — a fire that burned part of a resident’s home.
 
The fire, which happened July 4, was supposedly caused by Richard Otterstrom.
 
But on Friday, ABC 4 Utah learned that the charge of reckless burning had been dropped.
 
“It’s been awful. It’s been a rough several several months,” said Otterstrom’s attorney, Nathan Crane.
 
“It’s something he thinks about every day. He has dreams about it. It’s just tough to get out from underneath that. Friends, and family, and co-workers who see him — that’s what they think when they see him. And so finally today—he can put all that behind him,” added Crane.
 
According to the original charging documents, “unused fireworks were hidden behind Otterstrom’s garden planter,” and Otterstrom had admitted to setting off aerial fireworks that night.
 
But Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says more information had been presented since the time charges were filed in July.
 
“The only right thing for us to do was dismiss the charges--and that’s exactly what we did,” said Gill.
 
Gill says that, at first, police told him Otterstrom’s home was roughly 176 feet away from the fire. But prosecutors learned that the home was far outside that zone. And as the district attorney’s office pursued the case, they found out even more information from fire investigators.

 
“There were multiple other people who were engaging in aerial fireworks, some of whom were in fact maybe closer than the subject home that we were presented at our screening. And there could have been multiple different sources,” said Gill.
 
Cottonwood Heights Police Lieutenant Dan Bartlett says he was disappointed at the decision.
 
“Where Mr. Otterstrom lives in relation to where this fire began, with the wind speed, and the fireworks that he was using, the fact that we found fireworks in front of his home, and we found the fireworks that had not been lit off yet in the bushes, talking to him at the time, we felt that everything together was enough,” said Bartlett.

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