Police say inmate set soap on fire at jail

Steve Garrison
Kory Reed Galbraith

AZTEC – A 24-year-old inmate has been charged with arson on allegations he started a fire at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center while attempting to make tattoo ink.

Kory Galbraith was charged Monday in Aztec Magistrate Court with negligent arson as a fourth-degree felony. He is being held at the jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond, according to court records.

Galbraith has not retained legal representation, according to court records.

A deputy from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office was dispatched during the early-morning hours April 7 to the jail at 871 Andrea Drive after receiving reports of a fire in the living quarters, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

A sergeant at the jail showed the deputy a surveillance video that appeared to show an inmate tossing a glowing object under a bed in one of the cells, the affidavit states. The object drew the attention of detention guards, who entered the cell block and discovered the inmate attempting to put out a flame that erupted under the bed, according to the affidavit.

The walls and the bottom of the bunk were coated with soot by the time the fire was extinguished, the affidavit states.

The guards discovered a blue, gel-like substance under the bed, which they determined came from a charred piece of soap, according to the affidavit.

The inmate, identified as Galbraith, told the deputy he inadvertently started the fire while attempting to make tattoo ink.

The detention sergeant estimated the fire caused $200 in damage, according to the affidavit.

Jail Administrator Tom Havel did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

Galbraith is scheduled to appear at a preliminary examination hearing on April 14.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.