PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A 28-year-old man made his first court appearance Monday after a grand jury handed up 17-count indictment against him in connection to a deadly fire.
Ryan Thomas Monaco was originally charged with aggravated murder and first-degree arson for the deaths of Taher Alhaji and Jason Miller. Prosecutors announced Monday however that the grand jury charged Monaco with four counts of aggravated murder, three counts of first-degree arson, two counts of felony murder, two counts of murder, four counts of aggravated animal abuse, and one count each of fourth degree assault and strangulation.
The investigation began July 23 when crews responded to an apartment complex in the area of Northeast 98th Avenue and Northeast Glisan Street on the reports of a fully involved apartment fire.
The two men who died in the fire were roommates of Monaco’s on-and-off girlfriend.
As part of the indictment against Monaco, prosecutors have laid out several theories in the case.
The aggravated murder charges come from the fact that two people were killed during the same criminal event. Another aggravated murder theory comes from the fact that both men, who could have been potential witnesses, were killed after Monaco had committed the crime of first-degree arson.
Another theory in the case is that the murder of Alhaji and Miller was intentional – that Monaco knew he was going to be killing the men during the fire and the reason he is charged with murder.
However, the felony murder charges allege that Monaco committed first-degree arson by setting the apartment on fire and that as a result of the fire killed Alhaji and Miller. In the felony murder allegations, it’s not alleged that the murders were intentional. Prosecutors often use the felony murder statute when someone commits a crime and someone dies. Legal experts often use the example of a bank robbery gone bad.
If a bank robber accidentally shoots a gun, during the incident, and the bullet kills someone, they can be charged with murder, even though the robber may not have intended to kill the person.
Legal experts said Monday it’s not unusual for a grand jury to indict several different theories – especially in complex cases. Doing so, experts said, will allow investigations to look into motive and could lay the groundwork for a potential plea deal.
The indictment alleges that as part of the fire, a dog named Buddy, a corn snake named Buddy Whitaker, a corn snake named Amelia and a python snake named Johnny were all killed.
The aggravated murder statute alleges that Monaco maliciously killed all four animals. Prosecutors have not said if the animals were killed before the fire or as a result of the fire.
Records also show that in Feb. 2017, Monaco assaulted and strangled his then girlfriend, the same woman whose apartment he is accused of lighting on fire.
Monaco is scheduled to be back in court next month. .