Man charged with setting fire to 10 businesses in north Alabama allegedly used $20 bills to ignite fires

Alabama News

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A man accused of setting fires at 10 Madison County businesses in September appeared in court for his preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Nicholas Tremaine Hubbert, 24, faces seven counts of arson from the Huntsville Police Department, two from the Madison Police Department, and one count from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

Hubbert was present at the hearing via Zoom from the Madison County Jail.

Huntsville Police Investigator Frank Rosler, who responded to the fires, testified in court. They covered each individual fire in the hearing, and there was a common theme: $20 bills.

After interviewing Hubbert and watching surveillance footage, Rosler says the suspect typically walked inside a business, doused a 20 dollar bill with lighter fluid, and used that to light an object on fire. He says at Aldi, a cereal box was lit on fire, at Kroger: a bag of rice, at dollar general: paper towels, at McDonalds: a trash can, and at both Dick’s and Plato’s Closet: clothing.

Hubbert’s defense attorney Frank Marsili says this is not your run-of-the-mill arson case, and he wants to see the video Investigator Rosler referenced.

“We’re gonna want to see that interview that the investigator talked about and we’re gonna have to still wait for the surveillance footage to be provided, which will happen during the discovery process,” he said. “The state’s really good about turning that stuff over as they get it. These cases just take a little bit longer to work their way through the system. “

The time period of the cases were brought up during questioning, and Rosler said the first fire location was at Walmart around 5:00pm and the last location was at Dick’s around 7:30pm. Shortly after, Huntsville Police located Hubbert’s car and a chase began.

Rosler testified while Hubbert talked about the fires during an interview, he wouldn’t speak to the car chase.

While Marsili questioned the investigator, he asked about Hubbert’s mental health at the time.

Rosler testified that he did not believe Hubbert to be under the influence of alcohol or drug, but did suspect mental health issues.

“Certainly the mental health part of it will be something that I believe will be a factor,” said Marsili. “Now, to what extent it will be a factor and what the determination from the experts and the professionals may end up being, I don’t know.”

Marsili said at this point, it’s premature for him to say mental health will be the main line of defense.

Following testimony, Judge Patricia Demos said she found probably cause and bound the cases over to the grand jury.

News 19 compiled a timeline of the fires and discovered that the fires were set within a three-hour time span. Authorities do believe Hubbert acted alone.

Authorities identified the following locations in connection with Hubbert:

  • Plato’s Closet, located at 4851 Whitesburg Drive
  • McDonald’s, located at 1795 U.S. Highway 72 East
  • Dollar General, located at 125 Winchester Road Northeast
  • Kroger, located at 6070 Moores Mill Road
  • Walmart, located at 6140 University Drive
  • Publix, 8000 Madison Boulevard, Madison
  • Champy’s Chicken, 8020 Madison Boulevard, Madison
  • Aldi, located at 2125 Winchester Road Northeast
  • Dollar General, 1604 Winchester Road, Huntsville
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods, located at 2718 Carl T. Jones Drive Southeast

Hubbert’s next court appearance has not been scheduled. News 19 will keep you updated as this case develops.

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