Olympia man indicted on arson charges after damaging religious property

Dec 14, 2022, 4:34 PM
Photo from the Department of Justice

A 50-year-old Olympia man has been indicted for multiple arson cases at Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls in Olympia and Tumwater in 2018.

Michael Jason Layes — who goes by the name Mikey Diamond Starrett — has been in custody since September 2021 on a firearms charge. He was previously indicted for allegedly shooting at a Kingdom Hall in Yelm.

Jason Chudy with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives said the pattern of the crimes was clear.

Drive-by shooting injures 2 at funeral at Nashville church

“I mean, it’s clear that these attacks were targeted at the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, his motivation behind that is something that would probably be best answered by him,” Chudy said. “And that will probably also come out during the actual trial. ”

No one was injured in the shootings or instances of arson, but investigators said the attacks were escalating.

Investigators used evidence at the scene including surveillance videos, tips, and tracking down the sales of the type of fire log suspected of starting the fire.

“Our investigators used every available resource, they had to make sure that this investigation was done properly and that the evidence we gathered was strong,” Chudy said. “I hope this brings a sense of relief to the Jehovah’s Witnesses community, as well as to the communities in Thurston and Pierce counties. You know, we believe we’ve got the arsonist off the streets. And at this point, it’s up to the courts to try him.”

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Layes allegedly set fire to the Kingdom Hall of Tumwater and the Kingdom Hall of Olympia on March 19, 2018, and the Kingdom Hall of Olympia again on July 3, 2018. It is currently believed that Layes set the fires because of their religious character.

Greek Orthodox church at World Trade Center reopens at last

“As DOJ noted this week, we are putting a priority on prosecuting hate crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “We continue to work closely with our faith communities so that they have the most current information on how to protect places of worship.”

The case is being investigated by the ATF Seattle Field Division, the FBI, the Tumwater Police Department, and the Olympia Police Department.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years for each charge of damage to religious property, as well as up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charge of unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm.

Layes will be arraigned on the indictment next week.

Local News

Kathryn Stone

Oregon kidnapping suspect taken into custody after standoff

Law enforcement officials were able to determine that Foster had been accessing dating applications on his phone.
23 hours ago
Friends kitchen...
Micki Gamez

The Friends Experience pop-up opens in Seattle on Feb. 1

The FRIENDS Experience invites fans to step inside the world of the iconic series, relive their favorite moments, and celebrate the show.
23 hours ago
dead road rage...
L.B. Gilbert

Greenwood road rage fight involved knife, baseball bat

Police are investigating a road rage incident involving a bat and a knife in a QFC parking lot in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.
23 hours ago
The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
23 hours ago
lake stevens...
L.B. Gilbert

Case dismissed against Lake Stevens HS employee accused of sexual misconduct

A Lake Stevens School District employee is under arrest after being suspected of improper sexual contact with at least one child.
23 hours ago
bristol bay...
L.B. Gilbert

Bristol Bay salmon runs protected as EPA halts mine development

The EPA won a 12-year battle for a cleaner habitat by taking big steps to protect Bristol Bay salmon runs, the most productive in the world.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Olympia man indicted on arson charges after damaging religious property