Daycare neighbor booked with arson of new facility

Wade McIntyre
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning looks for signs of arson at the scene of Bottles to Booksacks Daycare in St. Amant Sunday night.

A St. Amant man was arrested in connection with a fire Sunday night that caused  extensive damage to the Bottles to Booksacks Day Care in St. Amant,  State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said Monday.

Carlos Alday, 53, of 10169 Hwy 431, was booked on charges of arson and simple burglary, Browning said.

The accused lives next door to the daycare center, which was under construction.

The fire was reported at 10:38 p.m., with members of the St. Amant and Gonzales Fire responding to the scene.

St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said a quick attack on the fire by local departments was instrumental in helping the fire marshall’s arson determination.

The building suffered somewhere between $60,000 to $70,000 in damages, LeBlanc said.

An open and damaged door to the facility proved initially suspicious to firefighters, according to LeBlanc. The daycare was not yet open to the public and the door prompted firefighters to call the fire marshall with their suspicions.

Browning arrived at 11:05 p.m. and began working the investigation joining with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Department. He said the fire appeared suspicious, leading him to question the neighbor, Alday.

“During questioning, the neighbor gave information we thought only the  arsonist would know,” Browning said.

Authorities also recovered some stolen property from the daycare at Alday’s residence, Browning said.

Alday confessed to the crime during questioning by authorities, Browning said.

LeBlanc said the owner of the facility is John Brent Clouatre, of Gonzales. He said the Clouatre family had been working on the facility for more than two years, and was nearing an opening date.

“Someone just waltzes in and within minutes destroys what these people have been working on for over two years,” LeBlanc said.

The Sorrento Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the scene with a tank truck.

“A good working relationship between fire  departments Sunday helped us contain fire, confirm suspicion of arson and lead to a timely arrest,” LeBlanc said. “This is the kind of working relationship between departments that we need in this parish.”

Browning said the fire departments did a good job of stopping the fire and giving investigators “a good chance to go in and get to the root of the cause of the fire.”

Carlos Alday