Robert E. Pates, cursed by spectators as he arrived for a court appearance, was ordered held without bond on charges that he set a jailhouse fire in which 27 fellow prisoners died. A preliminary hearing is set for next Wednesday.
Pates, 31, appearing nervous, was whisked into the Harrison County Courthouse past about 10 shouting relatives of inmates killed or injured in the jail fire.
The drifter from Granite City, Ill., who has a history of mental problems, suffered minor burns early Monday when the fire broke out in his padded cell, spreading toxic smoke through the Harrison County Jail in Biloxi.
Authorities revealed earlier that an investigator found a cigarette in a corner of Pates' cell, but they declined to link it to the fire. Pates had been jailed over the weekend on public drunkenness charges.
In St. Louis, Pates' mother, Ann, said she warned jail officials that her son could be dangerous when they telephoned her Sunday night. She blamed his condition on LSD.
District Attorney Albert Necaise said that Pates would be held in a cell next to the booking desk at a jail in nearby Gulfport and that "the officer there will be able to keep an eye on him 24 hours a day."
Pates entered no plea when the 27-count capital murder indictment was read. He can plead later.