A vagrant forced out of an apartment house hours before it was set on fire has been charged with nine arson deaths, and authorities say he should have been in jail for another case but ignored a judge's order.

Joe Pickens, 34, never reported to the Peoria County Jail on March 31 to serve a 30-day sentence for a misdemeanor, court records show.No arrest warrant was issued, and now Pickens faces more serious crimes: nine counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated arson in the worst fire in the history of this central Illinois city.

"I don't fault the sheriff or the jail," State's Attorney Kevin Lyons said Wednesday.