MURRIETA – A felon who allegedly ignited a fire that scorched a field in Murrieta pleaded not guilty Thursday, May 25, to arson.
Matthew Thomas Hulbert, 34, of Murrieta was arrested Monday after a Murrieta Police Department investigation identified him as the alleged source of a blaze near the intersection of Hayes Avenue and Kalmia Street.
Hulbert was arraigned before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Mandio, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for June 5 at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
Hulbert is being held on $35,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
According to Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad, the fire started about 6:20 p.m. Monday, scorching roughly 1.5 acres of open space near a ranch property before Murrieta Fire Department crews got it under control.
Conrad said officers were immediately alerted to a suspicious man leaving the scene, heading into a residential area.
With the aid of a bloodhound, officers deployed a dragnet and located the suspect – Hulbert – about an hour later at his residence on Hayes Avenue, according to Conrad.
A possible motive for the alleged arson was not disclosed.
According to court records, Hulbert has prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, obstructing a peace officer and animal cruelty.
He has served time in state prison within the last five years, records showed.