Arrests made in connection to Fort Smith arson

Arrests made in connection to Fort Smith arson
Two men were arrested in Fort Smith following an arson on Caribou Cr. on June 30. Stan Kukovica, the property owner, says the damage is irreparable.Photo: Dali Carmichael.

A Fort Smith man says his Caribou Cr. home had to be “written off” after his property was torched in a recent arson.

Stan Kukovica was vacationing in Slave Lake, Alta. when he received a call from RCMP notifying him of the house fire that took place shortly before 4:00 a.m. on June 30.

“Everything is totalled there, even my clothes, furniture, everything,” Kukovica said. “Once there’s smoke, there’s always going to be smoke. Everything is done, gone.”

Within a few hours of the incident, police arrested suspects Darian Laviolette, 18, and Richard Whalen, 24. The two men were seen leaving the blaze by a neighbour in the area, according to Kukovica.

Both suspects have been charged with breaking and entering. Whalen has also been charged with counts of arson, uttering threats and theft under $5,000.

Kukovica said he had no connection to the suspects before the fire, though he “knew of” Laviolette.

No injuries were reported, police said in a statement, but the damage to the structure is extensive.

Kukovica is awaiting an appraisal from his insurance company before deciding what to do with the charred property.

“I’m doing okay. It makes me stronger. It’s material,” Kukovica said. “Maybe if I didn’t have another place to stay I would worry about it, but I have an empty apartment, so I just moved in.”

RCMP and the NWT fire marshal continue their investigation into the arson.

“We’re still waiting for the results of some lab tests, so the finalizing investigation is underway, but everything is pretty straightforward,” said Bill Reimer, assistant fire marshal in the South Slave. “It has definitely been determined as incendiary and human-caused.”

Whalen was remanded to custody until his first court appearance on July 3. His next court date has yet to be scheduled.

Laviolette was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 17.

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