Judge denies bail for man accused of setting fire

By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A judge refused on Monday to set bail for a man accused of setting a fire that killed five college students, including two northern Ohioans, in a rooming house near Ohio State University.

Judge Steven Hayes denied Robert Lucky Patterson's request for bail after a detective who investigated the case said Patterson was a threat to witnesses of the April 13 fire.

"Several of the witnesses believe Mr. Patterson will come back to set their homes on fire if he finds out who they are," Detective Mike McCann said. "He has offered to make at least one of the people disappear."

Patterson, 20, of Columbus, did not speak during the brief hearing in Franklin County Municipal Court.

His public defender, Mitchell Adel, said Hayes denied them the opportunity to present evidence as to why bail should be set. Another hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 11.

Instead of wearing the type of loose-fitting corrections jumpsuit worn by other inmates, Patterson on Monday wore a thick green sleeveless tunic that fell to his knees and attached at the shoulders with Velcro.

A jail spokeswoman described the garment as a "suicide gown" intended to make it more difficult for an inmate to hurt himself. She said Patterson is under suicide watch.

Asked after the hearing if he was concerned about whether his brother could try to take his life, Ron Patterson said, "A little bit."

Robert Patterson was arrested and charged Friday with five counts of aggravated murder, three counts of attempted aggravated murder and nine counts of aggravated arson for setting the fire that killed two Ohio State students and three from Ohio University.

Police said Patterson was trying to steal stereos from cars when he got into a confrontation with someone in a parking lot behind the three-story rooming house, where about 80 people were celebrating the 21st birthday of one victim.

Ron Patterson, 21, said he believes his brother is innocent. He said his brother tried to help the police.

"He was acting like he really didn't have a care in the world. He cares that people died," Ron Patterson said. "But he says that he did everything he could to help the police find their way through this case. Everything he's told them, they threw back up against him."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)