Update: The Hillsboro Police Department released a statement after we published our story- Here is the update:
Body discovered at downtown Hillsboro fire scene (Photo) – 02/09/22 Update
As part of the ongoing investigation of the Weil Arcade fire on Main Street in Downtown Hillsboro being conducted by the Hillsboro Police Department, the Hillsboro Fire & Rescue, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) investigators discovered the remains of a deceased male inside the location of the fire earlier this week.
The man’s death was determined to be caused by smoke inhalation. Hillsboro Police detectives are working to identify the victim, who is not believed to be associated with the Weil Arcade businesses or location. Hillsboro Fire and Rescue concluded its investigation and determined the fire was intentionally set.
The discovery of the victim was delayed due to safety concerns with the building. We do not believe there are anymore victims in the debris. Information from the discovery of the deceased person will be forwarded to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office for review and charging decisions.
This investigation was a collaborative effort by multiple departments and agencies. We appreciate the support of our partners, business community, and community members.
Breaking News: 3:11 PM Feb 9/22-
The Hillsboro Herald has just learned that human remains have been found in the burned-out rubble of the building that burned on January 2nd, 2022. The Herald has been receiving tips for over three weeks on good authority that a body was found in the fire but has not been able to confirm these reports despite reaching out to Hillsboro Police and Fire who could not comment.
Karla Antonini of the Hillsboro Economic Development Department sent an email to some downtown business owners at 3:11 PM today, it stated:
On Monday, Feb. 7, Fire & Rescue concluded their investigation of the Weil Arcade Fire and determined that the fire was intentionally set. In coordination with the law enforcement investigation, human remains were found at the scene. Hillsboro Police will send a news release today.
City of Hillsboro
On February 3rd, 2022 the Herald was shown a videotape of the arson being committed on a nearby security camera. In the 2 hours of film, we were allowed to watch we not only see the arsonist dancing and lighting the building on fire, but we also see people coming and going from the site of the fire after midnight. At 12:15 AM in the morning of January 2nd, 2022 a man is captured on film walking East on Main Street from the corner of 3rd Street. He has a duffel or bag over one arm and as he is walking West on the southside of the street. He reaches the Weil Building and enters a white door without unlocking it. He quickly enters the building and closes it.
We watched the film for over 2 hours, watched the arsonist break into the building, and light the fire. For over 25 minutes he comes and goes in and out of the building – at one point doing a version of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker Dance” on the sidewalk as he watches the fire spread. He steals items in bags and then comes back to film the fire on his phone. The building burns, Hillsboro Police and then Hillsboro Fire arrive. By 2:45 or 3 AM the place is like a war zone.
The sad fact is that the man who entered the stairs at 12:15 AM never comes out. Is it him in the building? Hopefully not, we will find out soon. But the City has confirmed that a body was in there. Someone is missing a son or a daughter or a father or mother. If the person was unhoused and in the elements it would make sense they may not be reported missing.
The Herald spoke to Jamela Knight who worked at a law firm that was in the upstairs and a victim of the fire about 10 days ago. We asked her if she felt it was plausible that someone was in the building when it burned. She confirmed that it was a common occurrence to find homeless citizens sleeping in the upstairs hallway, as many as 2 or 3 days a week at times. The building is very big and very old. From our view, the man we saw entered the ground-level door with no effort and no key.
Charges against Roel Leon, the suspected arson, may really ramp up now that a body has been found. This horrible fire may have now claimed human life as well as caused horrible damage to our City. Maybe the body was already in the building. Maybe it was not the man we saw enter. We know our Fire and Police teams are working very very hard and want to respect that. This is just a very sad day in Hillsboro indeed.
We have more we can share, perhaps even the film. Time will tell and proper credit needs to be given to those who have shared all this information.