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Detectives: Man says he started arson

Detectives from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office have arrested a 28-year-old Olympia man suspected of setting a home in the Alpine Hills area of Thurston County on fire last month, an official said Friday.

Matthew Joseph McDonald reportedly confessed to burning the residence, in the 6700 block of Arnesen Lane Southwest, on April 13 to cover up evidence that he had burglarized the unoccupied home earlier, Chief Criminal Deputy Jim Chamberlain said. He was arrested Wednesday.

The blaze rendered the 4,200-square-foot building, assessed at $500,000, a total loss.

Detectives interviewing friends and family of a 24-year-old man who was found dead at the home two days before the fire were led to suspect McDonald, a family friend, in the arson.

The cause of Sean M. Champlin's death is unknown pending autopsy and toxicology results, Coroner Gary Warnock said Friday.

Champlin's parents found him April 11. Detectives were investigating his death as suspicious because of his age and the lack of any obvious signs of trauma, but Chamberlain said at the time that they don't think foul play was involved.

Investigators had suspected that the home had been burglarized before the arson. Champlin's father reported that items including stereo equipment, speakers and DVDs that should have been there were missing when they sorted through the fire debris.

Most of those items have been recovered, Chamberlain said.

McDonald was booked into the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of first-degree arson. He was being held there Friday evening with no bail set.

Online reporter April Chan writes for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5406 or achan@theolympian.com.

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