Four face charges in Arroyo Grande cross burning

2011-07-22T15:27:00Z 2011-07-22T15:54:07Z Four face charges in Arroyo Grande cross burningStaff report Santa Maria Times
July 22, 2011 3:27 pm  • 

Four people are in custody in connection with a cross burning in front of the home of a mixed-race family March 18.

Those charged are: Jason Kahn, 36, an Orcutt resident; William Soto, 20, a transient from Arroyo Grande; Jeremiah Hernandez, 32, a transient from San Simeon; and Sarah Matheny, 24, a transient also from San Simeon, according to the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

Felony charges filed today against all four suspects include arson, cross burning, terrorism and conspiracy to burn a cross. Each charge carries an enhancement of being a hate crime, officials said.

Kahn also was charged with witness intimidation.

All four suspects are at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, and the arrests were made over a period of time. Initially, the suspects were arrested on different charges so they would not know they were being investigated for the cross burning, officials said.

Officers also wanted to avoid an armed confrontation with Kahn, given his criminal history. Kahn served 10 years in prison for his involvement in a 1994 homicide in rural Arroyo Grande, and repeated parole violations sent him back to prison several times.

Multiple agencies were involved in the arrests, including 13 law-enforcement agencies, one fire agency and three community organizations. Officials estimate staff spent 5,000 hours on the case, with Arroyo Grande Police Department dedicating 3,000 hours.

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