RIVERSIDE – Jury selection began today for the trial of an ex-convict accused of igniting multiple fires over a 10-day span around Homeland.
Marco Antonio Aispuro, 44, is charged with 14 counts of arson and one count of attempted arson for the fire series that began on May 10, 2016, and ended with his arrest 10 days later.
Several panels of prospective jurors were summoned to the Riverside Hall of Justice for screening as to their availability and fitness to hear evidence. Additional jury selection is scheduled Friday, with opening statements possible on Monday.
Aispuro is being held in lieu of $150,000 bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.
According to Riverside County prosecutors, the convicted felon allegedly went on an arson spree that destroyed two sheds and damaged a mobile home, a detached garage and the land abutting several churches.
A trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Melanie Deutsch alleged that the defendant’s first target was the area of state Route 74 and Leon Road, where the sheds burned down.
That same day, Aispuro allegedly set a fire along Route 74 at Naumann Avenue, where a spot of vegetation was consumed until county fire crews contained the flames.
Aispuro’s adult son resided at the location and encountered the defendant in his back yard, sparking a confrontation between the estranged pair, at the end of which the ex-convict ran away, according to the brief.
Aispuro then allegedly torched bushes around the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Homeland, as well as vegetation near the Romoland Unified School District headquarters and Hemet Fence, in the 25900 block of Juniper Flats Road, Deutsch said.
In each instance, county fire crews responded and contained the flames in under a half-hour.
On May 15, Aispuro allegedly ignited a spot fire at Juniper Flats Road and Oak Creek Drive, but again crews knocked it down within minutes.
According to court papers, a cluster of fires were lit near the Community First Church of God on Homeland Avenue, damaging a detached garage and a doublewide trailer. A final fire was set behind a residence on nearby Neer Street, the prosecution stated.
Arson and sheriff’s investigators began collecting evidence at the outset of the alleged arson series that pointed to Aispuro, according to the brief.
One clue was a moniker—“2 hard”—spray-painted on structures and other objects where the fires occurred. The defendant’s children attributed the moniker to him, prosecutors allege.
Shoe prints found at several locations were also allegedly matched to Aispuro, Deutsch said. He was arrested without incident at his Perris residence.
According to court records, the defendant has prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, battery, auto theft and making criminal threats.