- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Missoula man arrested after a drug-related explosion in a University of Montana-owned apartment faces five felony charges.

Patrick Wayne Austin made an initial appearance Tuesday in Justice Court on charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs, possession with intent to distribute, arson and two counts of criminal endangerment, the Missoulian (https://bit.ly/1z8unbH) reported. Austin, 24, also faces a misdemeanor drug-manufacturing charge.

Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set Austin’s bail at $50,000, in addition to the $20,000 bail set on a separate burglary warrant filed in Flathead County. Austin did not enter pleas to any of the charges, and Orzech said he would be appointed a public defender.

Prosecutors allege Austin was using butane to extract hash oil from marijuana on Sunday afternoon when the explosion happened, burning Austin, Virginia Ervin, 18, and her 19-month-old child.

Officers found 1.67 pounds of marijuana, 8.3 grams of hash oil, a half-pound of hallucinogenic mushrooms, over $2,200 in cash, a rifle and two boxes of butane containers in a search of the apartment, court records say.

Austin was interviewed by police at the hospital and while he acknowledged using butane in hash-oil extraction in the past, he said he quit after setting a shed on fire. He suggested a gas leak must have caused Sunday’s explosion, court records said. He said he had the butane because he buys it in bulk to refill his lighters, charging documents said.

Ervin told police that Austin had been using butane to extract hash oil at the time of the explosion. She said he usually has her leave the apartment with her child while he does it, but on Sunday she said she and the child went into another room to watch TV, court records said.

The explosion blew out three windows. Ervin said her hair and her child’s hair caught fire.


Information from: Missoulian, https://www.missoulian.com

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