Jacob Matthews Identified as Student Who Died in Saddleback College "Suicide" Fire: Update

Update Nos. 1-2 at the end of this post identify the deceased student/arson-suicide suspect and provide details about him.

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ORIGINAL POST, JULY 9, 9:10 A.M.: The Orange County Fire Authority is investigating whether a 21-year-old student who died from burns in an arson fire at Saddleback College Monday morning actually set the blaze.

The unidentified man, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over most of his body, was first taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo before being airlifted to Santa Ana for treatement in the Western Medical Center burn unit, where he later died.

The fire call came in just before 6:40 a.m. as flames were spotted coming out of the top floor of the three-story business and general studies building, which was otherwise empty because classes are not in session.

No one other than the 21-year-old was injured in the blaze that was knocked down in about half an hour. The cause remains under investigation, but Fire Authority Captain John Muir reportedly told City News Service, "The fire was ruled arson. There was an accelerant. ... We do not know if this person lit the fire."

He estimated damage at $400,000--$200,000 to the structure and $200,000 to the building contents.

UPDATE NO. 1, JULY 9, 3:49 P.M.: A Saddleback College spokeswoman has revealed several details about the deceased students suspected of being a campus arsonist--except for his name.

The 21-year-old was enrolled in a class that was supposed to meet at 7 a.m. in the building the caught fire, said Jennie McCue (via the Associated Press). That's 20 minutes before the fire call came in.

The student had been enrolled at Saddleback since the spring 2011, had a GPA of 3.23 and had an 11-unit load as of Monday, added McCue, who said he was planning to transfer.

UPDATE NO. 2, JULY 15, 10:06 A.M.: The Orange County coroner's office has identified the student killed in the Saddleback College fire as Jacob Matthews, 21, of Lake Forest.

He committed suicide by fire, the coroner added.

The blaze started in Room 356 of Saddleback College's business and general studies building, where damage was mostly limited to the lecture hall, according to fire officials.

The college previously revealed Matthews had a class in the room later in the morning of the fire.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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