WINTERSET, Iowa — The Madison County Sheriff’s Department say social media and security cameras helped lead them to two teenager arson suspects.
On Saturday morning the historic Cedar Bridge near Winterset was intentionally set on fire. On Tuesday authorities arrested 17-year-old Alex Hoff of West Des Moines and charged him with 1st Degree Arson. On Wednesday 18-year-old Joel Davis of Norwalk was arrested as well.
According to court documents, authorities say they learned early in their investigation that Hoff had a “personal connection” to the bridge and had talked about burning it down. They also discovered an Instagram post of him standing inside another covered bridge with the message “The hardest part of life is knowing which bridges to burn, and which to cross”.
The next big clue for authorities was found lying in a ditch near the bridge: an empty gas can. Authorities say surveillance video captured at a gas station shows Hoff purchasing that gas can and a gallon of gas at 2:15am on Saturday. Hoff was then caught on a home surveillance system near Cedar Bridge at 3:15am Saturday.
The Madison County Sheriff’s office says Hoff has admitted to buying the gas can and throwing it out in a ditch near the bridge. Davis has admitted that he went along with Hoff to purchase “lighter fluid” on Saturday morning and splashing it on the bridge. Davis says it is Hoff who lit the bridge on fire.
Both men were at the scene of the fire later Saturday. Channel 13’s Jerad Giottinini spoke to onlookers on Saturday afternoon, including Hoff. In exclusive video Hoff and Davis can be seen discussing where they think the fire started and how they would hate to face whatever criminal penalties are coming for the arsonists.
Madison County Attorney Matt Schultz says he doesn’t know when the two will make their first court appearances in Madison County.