Suspect in deadly 2018 San Marcos apartment fire released on PR bond, remains unindicted, Hays Co. DA says

Jacobe De Leon O Shea Ferguson, 30, was arrested in July, five years after fire. DA: ‘Investigation continues’

Jacobe De Leon O Shea Ferguson was charged with the 2018 Iconic Village apartment fire in San Marcos that killed five people but has yet to be indicted. (KSAT)

SAN MARCOS, Texas – The suspect in the 2018 Iconic Village apartment fire in San Marcos that left five people dead has been released from jail on a personal recognizance bond, the Hays County district attorney confirmed Thursday.

Jacobe De Leon O Shea Ferguson, 30, was arrested in July, five years after the fire when investigators said they got a sudden break in the case.

Ferguson was charged with a first-degree felony charge of arson causing bodily injury or death. His bond was set at $250,000. But nearly three months after his arrest, he remains unindicted.

Under state law, a jailed defendant must be indicted within 90 days or be given a reasonable or PR bond. A PR bond means a defendant is allowed to leave jail without posting a bond if they agree to appear at future hearings on the case.

“On September 20, 2023, the prosecutors working on this case met with the investigative team. A joint decision was made that additional investigation was needed prior to presentation of the case to a grand jury,” Hays County District Attorney Kelly Higgins said in a statement to the media. “After the meeting, prosecutors contacted the defense counsel for Ferguson and informed them that the State would agree to his release on a personal bond while the investigation continues.”

Following the news, officials with the City of San Marcos said, “We remain committed to continuing this investigation and ensuring survivors, victims, and their families receive justice.”

In the July press conference held after Ferguson’s arrest, officials said the break in the case came after the Texas Rangers got involved and provided the task force with a “fresh set of eyes” as all investigators re-examined the evidence and conducted interviews again.

Five people died in the fire — Dru Estes, 20, of San Antonio; Belinda Moats, 21, of Big Wells; Haley Michele Frizzell, 19, of San Angelo; David Angel Ortiz, 21, of Pasadena; and James Phillip Miranda, 23, of Mount Pleasant. Four of the victims were students or former students at Texas State University, as Ferguson was at the time.

Victims: Belinda Moats (top left), Dru Estes (upper middle), Haley Michelle Frizzell (top right), James Miranda (lower left), David Ortiz (lower right)

The key information that investigators said they knew for years but that was just revealed publicly in Ferguson’s arrest warrant affidavit is that the deadly fire that spread to two buildings of the apartment complex started with a mattress in a first-floor breezeway.

Investigators said Ferguson had a tie to the mattress and was intoxicated and upset over finances and romantic rejection on the night of the fire.

Interim Fire Marshal Jonathan Henderson said while Ferguson was among those interviewed in 2018, he was not considered a suspect any more than anyone else.

It wasn’t until the Texas Rangers got involved that investigators were able to get more information from witnesses that implicated Ferguson.

In the weeks after the fire, Ferguson first lied to investigators about his knowledge of the mattress. He later admitted that he knew a friend left the mattress for him in the breezeway outside her apartment, but he was too busy to pick it up.

Another friend of Ferguson’s who lived in Building 5 told investigators that he and Ferguson had talked about the “flammability” of the mattress in the breezeway.

In new interviews this year, that friend told investigators that Ferguson was intoxicated on the night of the fire. They communicated by phone and text that night and the friend told investigators that Ferguson told him that his apartment was on fire and that his cats were dead. He said that the day after the fire he had a conversation with Ferguson about how the fire could have started. The friend said that Ferguson said it could have started with a “stray spark or someone intentionally setting fire to this mattress.”

In another interview with the woman who left the mattress for Ferguson, she admitted that Ferguson told her to lie to investigators in 2018 and not say anything about the mattress. The affidavit stated that it took “multiple attempts” to contact the woman and she later admitted that she had been in recent contact with Ferguson. He told her to tell investigators that she didn’t remember because it had been five years, the affidavit states.

In yet another interview with Ferguson’s friend last month, he told investigators that Ferguson was frustrated after being rejected for a date by one of the building residents and said Ferguson had a “contempt for women.” The witness also said Ferguson was working three jobs and was frustrated that he was getting nowhere.

The friend told investigators that Ferguson “Didn’t tell me he did it, (but) he told me why he did it,” according to the affidavit. Ferguson told him the fire took over “super-fast” and “super-hot.” They even discussed what kind of charges Ferguson could face.

It was those new interviews, the affidavit states, that gave investigators enough proof to arrest Ferguson.

The families of some of the victims along with some of the residents sued the owners of the apartment complex after the fire, citing unsafe conditions including the lack of fire sprinklers, unreliable smoke detectors, and a flawed roof design that fed oxygen to the flames.

That lawsuit was settled before trial and the terms were confidential.

Watch the full press conference about Jacobe Ferguson’s arrest:

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About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.