Michael Bazany was sentenced to 11 years in prison for starting a fire on Nov. 4, 2006, at the Taco Bell restaurant he managed in Brownwood.
Bazany, 39, pleaded guilty to arson Monday in 35th District Court in a plea bargain agreement. Bazany was also charged in the theft of cash and receipts from the restaurant, but that charge was dismissed as part of the plea bargain, court documents show.
The 4:24 a.m. fire damaged the restaurant’s interior, and it remained closed for several weeks for repairs.
Fire investigators determined that the fire had multiple starting points, an indicator of arson, court documents state. Fire Marshal Buddy Preston found the remnants of a 5-gallon kerosene container that contained a liquid Preston “recognized as an accelerant, possibly gasoline.”
Preston also found liquid “believed to be gasoline” in a cash register drawer, and a pair of gloves found under the alarm key “had the smell of an accelerant,” court documents state.
The kerosene container had a tag with a UPC code, and Preston learned from Wal-Mart that the store had sold only one item with that UPC code within the previous 24 hours, court documents state.
Security video from the register where the purchase was made showed Bazany buying the kerosene container at 3:42 a.m. on Nov. 4, court documents state.
Preston also learned that a man wearing the same type of clothing as Bazany bought gasoline at a nearby Allsup’s store at 3:57 a.m. on Nov. 4, court documents state.
Bazany told Preston he had closed the restaurant and when he drove by later, he saw that lights normally left on were off, court documents state. Bazany said he went in the restaurant to turn on the lights. As he entered the kitchen area, holding the door open with his left arm and setting the alarm pad with his right hand, there was a fire flash, Bazany told Preston.
Bazany’s 1998 Chevrolet pickup remained parked at Taco Bell after the fire. An insurance investigator opened the truck’s unlocked door, looking for a set of keys to the restaurant’s breaker box so he could check out the electrical panel, which is standard procedure, court documents state.
The insurance investigator found a case with $4,406 in Taco Bell cash and receipts. They were part of the restaurant’s daily receipts and should have been in the restaurant’s safe, court documents state.