Roatcap fire suspect pleads not guilty

The 53-year-old Dolores man, who is accused of starting the Roatcap Fire near Dolores, pleaded not guilty in District Court on Thursday afternoon.

Roger Stratton, who did not speak at his arraignment, is charged with fourth-degree arson, which is a felony.

Stratton, who is out of jail on a $3,000 bail, through his attorney waived the formal reading and advisement of the charges.

Amy Smith, Stratton's public defender attorney, asked District Court Judge Todd Plewe for more time because of the number of witnesses she needs to interview.

She also said there may be expert testimony she may need to obtain for the trial.

Plewe said due to the number of witnesses, which could be in the dozens, there could be difficulty in seating a jury.

He said the court will need a list of potential witnesses, so jury candidates can be asked in questionnaires if they know anyone who was affected by the Roatcap Fire.

Plewe set the jury trial for June 3 and scheduled a motions hearing for 9 a.m. March 22 with all motions to be filed 20 days before the hearing.

Plewe also set a Feb. 21 deadline for the district attorney's office to provide the names and addresses of witnesses in the discovery process.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Farrell is the lead prosecutor in the case.

The fire, which started around 10:30 a.m. Oct. 24 near County Roads 29 and P, burned more than 400 acres and forced the evacuation of around 30 homes.

The Montezuma County Sheriff's Office said the fire was not set intentionally, but said that Stratton needed to be held accountable for his careless actions.

Stratton allegedly was burning leaves on his property when the wind caused the fire to spread out of control.