A Richland man is accused of stealing a car from the mother of his three children and setting fire to it on a gravel beach near the Columbia Park boat launch.
Thomas L. Black, 27, was charged Tuesday with second-degree arson and possession of a stolen car, both domestic violence allegations.
He’s scheduled to appear Jan. 25 in Benton County Superior Court.
Black, when interviewed in November by a Kennewick detective, allegedly admitted to taking the 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix from his former significant other’s Pasco home on Aug. 26.
He claimed he used a co-worker’s car to get around and was egged on by two other people to burn his ex’s car, court documents said.
Vanessa Valle and her current partner reportedly retrieved her Pontiac on Aug. 25 from Black, and later parked it outside the couple’s Agate Street home. Valle at some point posted that they would be traveling to Spokane the next day.
Prosecutors say Black took advantage of her out-of-town trip to steal her car. He allegedly called her sister Aug. 26 and said, “If she thinks there were issues before, she’s really got it coming now.”
Cellphone tower data over a one-hour period that night showed Black’s phone was in the area of Valle’s home, then traveled on Highway 240 to the Edison Street boat launch and to his Richland home, documents said.
A passer-by saw the burning Pontiac at 9:53 p.m. and called 911. He told police a woman ran from the area of the fire to a waiting car, that left on Columbia Park Trail, court documents said.
He also gave a description of the car and the possible license plate.
The car was empty and engulfed in flames when police and firefighters arrived.
Valle returned from Spokane about 10:30 p.m. and realized the Pontiac was missing. She went to the boat launch after getting a call from police.
Hours later, Valle’s new boyfriend found a car parked in front of Black’s apartment that matched the description of the getaway car, documents said.
An acquaintance told police that Black previously told him he should burn Valle’s car “so that b---- can’t have it,” documents said.