Man charged with murder, arson following fatal Rainier house fire in July

Detectives with the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man from Tumwater in connection with the July 26 house fire on Tipsoo Loop in Rainier that killed 58-year-old Gabriel Ayala. He is being charged with 1st Degree Murder and 1st Degree Arson.

Police first contacted the suspect, Jaime Montalvo-Martinez, at the Fred Meyer store in Lacey in the afternoon of July 25th. He was “telling people that strangers were following him and was reported to be ‘acting strange'”, according to charging documents. He was reported to be transient and dealing with substance abuse issues.

Montalvo-Martinez’ mother picked him up at the Fred Meyer in Lacey, and transported him to meet his step-father, Gabriel Ayala. Mr. Ayala took Montalvo-Martinez back to his residence in the 900 blk of Tipsoo Loop N in Rainier.

A few hours later, neighbors called 911 to report that the house was on fire.

Montalvo-Martinez told investigators that he awoke to smoke, opened his bedroom door and saw flames, and exited through his bedroom window. He said that he then helped another resident out of the home.

When detectives interviewed the other resident, they said that Montalvo-Martinez never helped them out of the house. When they exited, they saw Montalvo-Martinez outside with a machete, which detectives have been unable to locate.

After the fire, Montalvo-Martinez went back to his mother’s home and washed his clothes. Police took these clothes as evidence, and when processed by a crime lab, the testing determined that gasoline was present on his sweatpants, his blanket (when exiting the house, he had the blanket wrapped around him), and his shoes.

Accelerant detection K9 Hansel from, Central Pierce Fire, responded to the scene, and Hansel alerted that accelerants were present in multiple areas of the burned trailer. A melted red plastic lump was found on the back porch of the residence, thought to be the remains of a gas can.

An autopsy was performed on Gabriel Ayala, who perished in the fire. The cause of death was determined to be “inhalation of products of combustion”.

Montalvo-Martinez is currently being held in the Thurston County Jail on one million dollars bail.

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