MURRIETA: Alleged arsonist with long arrest history apprehended after starting fire

MURRIETA — Police officials have announced the arrest of a Murrieta resident suspected of setting at least one field ablaze in Murrieta. Murrieta police officers made the arrest after witnesses reportedly saw the suspect start a brush fire in the area of Hayes Avenue and Kalmia Street in Murrieta, Monday, May 22.

Murrieta PD officers arrested 34-year-old Murrieta resident Matthew Hulbert after he allegedly started a field fire.
Murrieta PD officers arrested 34-year-old Murrieta resident Matthew Hulbert after he allegedly started a field fire.

After an investigation, authorities arrested 34-year-old, Matthew Thomas Hulbert and he was booked into the Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of arson. An online jail records search revealed Hulbert remains in custody, held on $35,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta May 25.

Officers began their arson investigation at 6:21 p.m., when City of Murrieta emergency dispatchers received “numerous emergency calls” regarding a brush fire, Murrieta Police Lt. Tony Conrad explained in a written press release after the fire and arrest.

“Several callers reported seeing a suspicious male subject leaving the area on foot shortly after the fire had started,” said Conrad.

City of Murrieta Police and Fire personnel responded to the scene of the fire, arriving within minutes of the dispatched call.

While firefighters began an aggressive attack on the brush fire, some officers assisted with crowd and vehicular traffic control while other officials began investigating the origin of the suspicious fire and officers immediately began searching for the man callers described seeing walking away from the field after the fire was started.

Based on additional information gathered during the investigation the fire was confirmed to be a valid arson.

One eagle-eyed citizen directed officers to an area where the suspect had been seen shortly after the fire started, Conrad explained. “Several officers, including a police bloodhound, responded to the neighborhood and conducted a thorough search (of the) area.”

About one hour after their search began, officers located the alleged suspect hiding inside his residence. Officials detained the man, who was identified as Hulbert, without incident, according to Conrad.

Officers determined Hulbert was on Post Release Community Supervision “for battery on an officer as well as having an extensive criminal history with convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, battery on emergency personnel, resisting officers and DUI,” said Conrad.

Witnesses who originally called in the arson fire “positively identified (Hulbert) as being the same subject that was seen leaving the field when the fire had started,” Conrad continued.

Based on the witness statements and evidence collected at the scene, authorities arrested Hulbert.

“It should be noted that Mr. Hulbert is a product of Assembly Bill 109,” Conrad said after the arrest. “Local communities like Murrieta have felt the effects of Assembly Bill 109, and (this) arrest demonstrates the impact of these mandates on the citizens of Murrieta.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout California have overwhelmingly and vocally come out against Assembly Bill 109, also known as “the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011,” as well as voter-approved Propositions 47 and 57.

“(They have) created serious burdens for law enforcement and the judicial system,” said Conrad, who explained, “AB 109 shifted responsibility for managing “non-serious, non-violent” felons from the state to counties, ratcheting up the strain on local jail space and is responsible for the early release of a large number of offenders into California communities. Prop 47, passed in November of 2014, has added to the burden by reducing numerous drug and property crimes to misdemeanors.”

“The Murrieta Police Department recognizes the concerns associated with these mandates,” Conrad continued, “and we continue to proactively arrest the AB 109 offenders that victimize our residents.”

Conrad took the opportunity to remind citizens that many recent arrests were initiated by “alert citizens” who called 911 to report suspicious activity.

“We encourage our residents to stay vigilant in their reporting of crime, as was the case with this arrest,” Conrad concluded.

Anyone with information related to this investigation or who witnessed the arson fire or knows of other suspicious fires is encouraged to contact Murrieta police officials at (951) 304-2677. Callers can refer to incident file number 1705M-5549 and can remain anonymous.

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