Residents tell of subduing suspected arsonist

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jul. 27—Frank and Jane Moody were planning on a nice dip into Mill Creek in the remote lower Rogue River enclave of Marial Monday afternoon when a man alleged to be an arsonist crossed their path.

"We'd seen him the day before, and he was pretty disoriented, so we gave him some water," Moody said. "He was harassing people all night at the campground, looking for food, saying he was going to die. He disappeared, so we didn't think he was still around until we saw him walking up the road close to my house," Moody said in a phone interview Wednesday.

"We drove past him walking along the road, then we went around the corner and saw the two fires burning, so we raced down and got the guys at Marial Lodge. Our son, Daniel (Snyder), was coming down right then on his motorcycle," Frank Moody said.

Rob Biscarret, owner of Marial Lodge, said he and his wife were taking a nap when he heard Frank Moody peel into the driveway.

"This guy had been loitering around the night before, bothering people, so we all knew he was in the area," Biscarret said.

"I heard Frank pull into the driveway yelling at me, 'Get your firefighting tools, this guy is starting fires!'" Biscarret recounted.

"He said, 'You got any zip-ties?' I asked why, and he said, 'We need to go get this guy!' My sister was camping nearby, and she'd had a run-in with him the night prior. I ran over there and grabbed my dad (Marc Biscarret), and we met Frank's son, Dan, in the road, so he jumped into the truck with us, too."

The unlikely heroes raced down the road and sprang into action.

"At first he was walking up the road close to my house, so I freaked out and ran up to my house to get a gun, but by the time I came back, the three guys had already got him," Moody said.

"We didn't really question him. He was pretty out of it, mumbling something about the fires, and he had a lighter."

Moody described the man, later identified as 31-year-old Trennon Smith, as large and combative.

"He wasn't a small guy. Probably at least 250 pounds and 6-2. My son is pretty big, too, but this guy really fought. My son said it was good that Rob and his dad were there because he couldn't have fought him on his own. One guy rapped him on the head with a pistol. Then, when they were wrestling him, they went over a steep embankment, and he hit a tree and kind of got stuck in it," Moody said.

Biscarret said it was "lucky" a tree broke Smith's fall.

"We were going to just have him stay with us until the authorities got there — until he tried to tackle Dan, so then I ended up on top of him, all of us wrestling him to the ground. Then we went over an embankment. That kind of put him in a position we could hold onto him, so we tied him to it."

Biscarret said it was obvious Smith was under the influence of drugs. The trio tied Smith with rope and zip-ties, but he fought hard enough to break the zip-ties.

"His pupils were dilated. He was combative and sweating profusely," Biscarret said.

"I'm relieved we were able to stop him. It's all old-growth forest out there, and it would take nothing at all for that undergrowth to take off. It's steep country, so when it catches, you have to pretty much let it burn."

Moody said Smith had ditched his car in a nearby field, which he reported to law enforcement. Police arrived to pick Smith up a couple of hours after he was detained.

"We'd pretty much hogtied him. We poured some water on him to keep him cooled off, talked to him to keep him awake," Moody added.

The Curry County Sheriff's Office reported receiving Moody's call just before 2 p.m. Monday near the location of the Rogue River Ranch and Marial Lodge. With the area being so remote and in a high fire danger area, accessible either by river or Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management roads, multiple agencies responded to help extinguish the flames and locate the suspect.

BLM officers transported Smith, reportedly from Veneta, to Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He was later lodged at the Curry County Jail. Biscarret said it was helpful to have so many agencies on hand Monday — and that community members were being mindful of their surroundings.

Jane Moody remembered trying to help Smith prior to discovering the fires.

"When we passed him, he'd already started the fires, but we didn't know it. We stopped and said, 'What are you doing?' He looked me square in the eyes and said, 'I'm not gonna make it,'" she said.

"I told him, 'We'll go get the BLM guys at the ranch, and they'll come take care of you.' As soon as we went around the corner, we saw the fires going and thought, 'Oh, my gosh. He's lighting fires.' It could have been so much worse than it was."

Jane Moody said apprehending a suspected arsonist was enough excitement for the rural area to last a good, long while.

"We live a pretty quiet life out there," Frank Moody added. "We were just trying to go for a swim like we do every day, down at Mill Creek. It's peaceful and quiet."

"And we'd like to keep it that way," added his wife.

Curry County Sheriff John Ward reported Tuesday that Smith had been lodged on charges of first-degree arson and reckless burning. He also was lodged on a detention warrant out of Lane County for a probation violation.

Smith has an arrest record dating back to 2011, with convictions beginning in 2016 that include possession of methamphetamine, first-degree burglary, third-degree robbery and first-degree animal abuse.

Monday's fire, dubbed the Rogue River Ranch Fire, was contained at less than an acre through the joint efforts of Oregon Department of Forestry, Douglas Forest Protective Association and Coos Forest Protective Association.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.