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Man accused of starting fire at S. Austin duplex was 'talking about sacrificing souls'

27-year-old Zachariah James Gonzales is charged with arson for allegedly starting a fire at a duplex in South Austin. (Photo: Austin Police Department)

A man accused of starting a fire late Saturday night has been arrested.

27-year-old Zachariah James Gonzales is charged with arson.

The Austin Fire Department responded to a call for a trash fire in the front yard of the duplex at 9626 Sugar Hill Drive, near the intersection of W Slaughter Lane and West Gate Blvd.

Firefighters also extinguished a mattress fire in a bedroom.

The fire damaged the exterior of the structure but was knocked down quickly.

According to an affidavit, residents named Gonzales as the suspect. The people living in the A unit of the duplex said Gonzales had been staying in the B side of the residence for two to three weeks after being kicked out of his home in San Antonio.

The residents said Gonzales' brother was currently in jail and is the boyfriend of the current renter of the B unit. They said Gonzales had become increasingly difficult over his stay there, and would "babble on" about people trying to "get him."

Investigators interviewed a witness who was in the B unit. He said Gonzales and another man were cutting wood for the fireplace when Gonzales went to his room. About 20 minutes later, he said he came in the front door and asked for a lighter, which they gave him.

Gonzales left out the front door, and the witness didn't see him again. The man then smelled smoke about 15 minutes later, and found Gonzales' bed on fire.

He also told investigators that Gonzales' had been acting "delusional" and "crazy," thinking "everyone is out to get him."

The woman renting the B unit also stated that Gonzales' had been "talking crazy...jibberish."

According to court documents, Gonzales messaged her on Sunday asking her to pick him up. She instead called police, who detained Gonzales at Dittmar and S. First Street.

When interviewed by police, Gonzales denied being at the home, but later admitted to leaving around 5 p.m. He told officers he was in the living room with two men cutting up firewood and "talking about sacrificing souls."

He told investigators he didn't want any part of that, so he left. He also told police the residents all knew each other, and were trying to "whack" him on "some human trafficking."

Police found a lighter and drug paraphernalia on Gonzales when he was arrested.

He's charged with arson, a first degree felony.

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