A quick decision by the jury
A Platte County jury has convicted a man for starting a fire in a hotel room used as a temporary shelter for the homeless.
Travis Betts, 43, of Prairie Village, Kansas, was found guilty on April 19 of the felony of knowingly burning.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “This defendant’s actions created a dangerous situation and undermined efforts to help the homeless community find emergency housing. All Platte County residents, regardless of socio-economic status, deserve to live in a place where this sort of criminal behavior is not tolerated.”
Jurors deliberated for less than thirty minutes before reaching a verdict.
Jurors found that, on July 14, 2021, Betts started a fire in the bathtub of a hotel room in what was previously known as the Sure Stay Hotel located near KCI Airport.
The Kansas City Police and Fire Departments both responded to that location at approximately 5 p.m. in response to a 911 call from hotel security reporting a disturbance in the room.
Upon arrival, police officers were forced to kick in the door to the bathroom. Betts was blocking the door and was detained. Firefighters then extinguished a fire in the bathtub.
Betts admitted to being under the influence of methamphetamine when he started the fire.
At the time, the hotel was being used as a temporary emergency shelter for the homeless. The City of Kansas City had embarked on an emergency hotel initiative in response to the rise in the homeless population during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A woman staying at the hotel testified that she met Betts under a bridge off Barry Road. She agreed to let Betts come back to her room to take a shower after he gave her some food to eat.
A fire investigation expert with the Kansas City Police Department’s bomb and arson unit testified that the fire was intentionally set.
Betts’ criminal history stretches back to 1996 and includes almost two dozen prior felony convictions. Zahnd said Betts has never gone more than a few months before committing another crime.
Zahnd said, “This defendant is the textbook example of a dangerous career criminal. Although this fire was quickly extinguished by Kansas City firefighters, it could instead have spread, endangering the lives of many people.”
Betts is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16. Prosecutors charged him as a prior and persistent offender, which increases his maximum sentence. As a result, he faces up to seven years in prison.
The case was investigated by the Kansas City Police Department. It was tried by assistant prosecuting attorneys Brice Barnard and Collin VanOstran.