Arrest made in last week’s suspicious fires in Kankakee

September 27, 2018

KANKAKEE — Joshua J. Henderson, of Kankakee, was arrested for setting fires at two houses located within three blocks of one another in downtown Kankakee last week.

Kankakee Fire Capt. Mike Casagrande and city police Detective Logan Anderson took the 39-year-old Henderson into custody Tuesday afternoon.

Casagrande said the preliminary charges are two counts of arson and one count of burglary.

Firefighters were called to a two-story structure on fire at 162 N. Washington Ave. at 11:30 p.m. Sept. 19. About 45 minutes later, at 12:15 a.m. Sept. 20, a second 911 call came in for a fire at a vacant two-story house at 220 S. Entrance Ave.

The North Washington house was the new home for Victory House, a place for recovering addicts which had been located the past 10 years at 152 S. Greenwood Ave., according to Minister Mark Jones.

The Greenwood Avenue location could house up to 10 men. Jones said they moved out of Greenwood on Sept. 1, only three weeks ago.

Victory House is part of Lost Souls Our Mission or “L’SOM” Ministries, founded in 1999 by Jones, himself a former addict. Victory House is a registered nonprofit with a board of directors. The house is maintained, in part, by wages the men earn working jobs such as cutting grass, clearing snow, landscaping, moving jobs and working at events such as Merchant Street Musicfest.

Jones said Henderson had lived at Victory House in the past.

“We can push forward,” Jones told the Daily Journal in a phone interview Tuesday. “We can put a better foot forward and continue our ministry.”

Jones said he is hopeful to find a place by January.

“The community still needs us,” he said.

Jones said the plan was to open the North Washington home in January. The big house had a commercial kitchen, which was going to be used to help feed the homeless and give them a warm place to stay during the winter, he said.

While no one was in the house at the time, two cats, Toby and Tonie, were lost in the fire. Jones said they had been with him the past 10 years.

Jones said a man who has no family, but connected with the cats, recovered their bodies from the ruins. They were buried this week.

“They were a form of therapy for the guys,” Jones said. “When someone new came in, I told them if you mistreat them they will tell on them because they talk to me.”

Solving the case

Casagrande said they were able to come up with a person of interest early in the investigation. Anderson and Casagrande were aided by surveillance video from three nearby businesses.

“It was good, solid work by Kankakee police and Kankakee fire departments,” Casagrande told the Daily Journal. “There was a lot of investigative work based on solid leads that we were able to back up. We had good information in this investigation.

“It took time to go through the video, but it helped us put everything together.

Casagrande said there was a specific reason for what (Henderson) did, but he would not elaborate. Henderson didn’t talk much to investigators.

At the South Entrance fire scene, an officer found a board covering a window on fire and the ground beneath the window wet with a possible accelerant. Casagrande said investigators found two points where fire was started.

Fire was shooting out of windows on the north, south and east sides of the two-story structure on North Washington Avenue, which is next to a church. The roof collapsed into the second floor and there was a partial collapse of the second floor into the first floor.

Henderson took items from the house on North Washington, Casagrande said.

Update hourly