Ethen Mark Bentley 1-22-21

Ethen Mark Bentley, 29, of Stella, Nebraska, has been charged with first-degree arson in connection with a Jan. 14 fire that forced the evacuation of the Nodaway County Jail.

MARYVILLE, Mo. — A Nebraska man has been charged with starting the fire that forced an evacuation of the Nodaway County Jail, the sheriff’s office announced.

According to online court records, Ethen Mark Bentley, 29, of Stella, Nebraska, has been charged with first-degree arson, a class B felony in connected with the Jan. 14 jail fire.

The arrest came after an investigation by the state fire marshal’s office and the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office.

Just before 8 p.m. on Jan. 14, jailers spotted smoke from a fire that began in a holding cell occupied only by Bentley, forcing the evacuation of the jail and significant smoke damage. All 20 inmates were relocated to Andrew and Buchanan counties until further notice. Sheriff Randy Strong told The Forum that he hopes to reopen the jail within about a month.

The sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post Thursday that Bentley was being held on two charges of first-degree assault, domestic assault, first-degree property damage and resisting a lawful stop. A witness reportedly saw Bentley assault a woman while the two were in a moving car. When police attempted to stop the vehicle, Bentley fled, resulting in a pursuit that ended when police say Bentley intentionally drove head-on into a Maryville Public Safety car, totaling both vehicles.

Bentley’s bond had been denied on Jan. 12, online court records show.

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