Arson suspect had 3rd-degree burns

Published 2:58 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Staff report


A Jefferson County grand jury indicted a Houston man Wednesday for setting his ex-girlfriend’s car ablaze.

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According to the indictment, the Port Arthur Fire Department responded to a fire at the Seashell Motel on West Highway 73 on March 25. The building contained residents who were displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

In a surveillance video, an individual can be seen walking into the garage with a fuel can. The man can be seen running after a “large fire explosion.”

The fire department determined the starting point of the fire was the vehicle of Brenda Onishea, who was staying at the motel at the time. Onishea told investigators she had been having problems with an ex-boyfriend, Christopher Snowden, 50.

Deputy Fire Marshal Joe Pirtle spoke with Snowden, who claimed to be in Houston at the time of the fire, over the telephone. After Snowden spoke with Pirtle, he handed the phone to a family member who told Pirtle that Snowden would not meet him because he had third-degree burns.

Cell phone records obtained by a warrant showed Snowden’s cellphone to be at the motel at the time of the fire. Pirtle found the hospital where Snowden went for treatment and obtained a subpoena for his medical records, which showed Snowden had burns on his head, ears, neck, right upper extremity and left upper extremity.

Snowden also posted a photo on social media in which he was wearing the jersey seen in the surveillance video at the motel.

According to the indictment, Snowden called Onishea after the fire to apologize for setting fire to her car and threatened to kill her and her aunt, with whom she lived.

Snowden was charged with arson.

He remained at the Jefferson County Correctional Center on Thursday with bond set at $110,000.