Man under investigation for apartment arson, homicide turns himself in
Anchorage police say a man wanted for a murder and arson that occurred on Jan. 24 turned himself in to police on Tuesday.
In a statement announcing the arrest, police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said 51-year-old Jimmy Cates was taken into custody for the charges of first-degree murder, first-degree arson, tampering with evidence and two counts of second-degree murder. The charges stem from the investigation into a fire at an apartment building on West 23rd Avenue that led to the discovery of a woman’s body.
“Due to heavy smoke, police officers were unable to enter the unit on fire,” Oistad described the initial incident. “After [the Anchorage Fire Department] extinguished the flames, a deceased adult female was found inside.”
Oistad identified the victim as 57-year-old Peijun Li. In an email, Oistad said the relationship between Li and Cates was still under investigation.
Police said Li was the victim of a homicide, and Oistad said the autopsy confirmed that, showing she had “suffered from smoke inhalation and asphyxia by strangulation.”
According to Oistad, investigators determined the fire had two origins — one inside the damaged apartment and one just outside the apartment building. On surveillance footage released by police, a Nissan Rogue was seen leaving the area at the time of the fire. That vehicle was associated with Cates, according to Oistad.
“Also seen on video surveillance was a man in a nearby gas station, just two hours prior to the fire, which looked just like the man seen at the fire,” Oistad added. “During an interview with detectives in early March, Cates admitted it was him on the gas station surveillance footage but denied being present at the crime scene.”
Oistad said Cates turned himself in to police around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, the same day police obtained a warrant for his arrest. A judge set his bail at $500,000 cash corporate and $50,000 cash performance with a requirement for a third-party custodian.
AFD and the FBI assisted with the investigation, Oistad said.
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