Nicholas Jarrett Miller
Nicholas Jarrett Miller

Nicholas Jarrett Miller, 41, of Mason, Texas was charged with arson Monday in connection with the fire that claimed the 111-year-old Mason County courthouse on Thursday, Feb. 4th.

The historic courthouse was gutted, with only its exterior stone walls left standing. Fortunately county records normally housed there had been moved to another building because the courthouse was under renovation.

Miller is also suspected in a series of other crimes, including an arson that claimed the home of a family member, the beating and robbery of a cafe owner, and the burglary of a grocery store in search of ammunition. Vehicles belonging to the volunteer firefighters who responded to the emergency calls that night, were also said to have been burglarized at the Mason fire hall, just a half-block from the courthouse.

Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden told reporters that Miller had a troubled past with a history of misdemeanor drug convictions.

It all began at about 9:50 p.m. on Thursday, February 4th, when firefighters were dispatched to a house fire on Ranck Street in Mason. About 15 minutes later, a fire alarm sounded at the Mason County Courthouse, followed by a second alarm at the same location. Additional firefighters responded to the call, along with fire crews from surrounding communities.

Social media played a part in the story as well with Miller posting several times on Facebook during what Judge Bearden called a “one man crime spree.”

And, it may have been Miller’s social media posts that helped authorities identify him as a suspect so quickly. He went on the run and law enforcement officers tracked his movements along Texas Highway 29 from Mason to Llano, Burnet and Georgetown before turning north on Interstate Highway 35.

Friday morning, officers attempted to stop Miller on I-35 but a chase ensued at speeds reportedly in excess of 100 mph. The suspect live-streamed part of the pursuit on Facebook. Multiple spike strips were deployed, deflating tires on Miller’s Ford F-350 dually pickup before it finally came to a stop just south of Waco. That’s where Miller surrendered to authorities even as he live-streamed his arrest.

Miller was booked into the McClennan County Jail where he was being held Tuesday in lieu of $1.8 million bond. He is currently charged with two counts of arson, burglary of a building, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and evading arrest. The incidents remain are being investigated by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Texas Rangers.