Stevensville man charged with arson
STEVENSVILLE — A Stevensville man has been arrested and charged with arson in connection with the March 6 fire that destroyed a two-story, waterfront home on Beachside Drive.
The blaze occurred shortly before 7:20 a.m. at 420 Beachside Drive. Neighbor Gail Ruppe reported hearing two explosions.
“I looked up and I saw a big black tunnel of smoke. I ran to the side window and I saw the most gigantic fire,” Ruppe said. “It was so scary.”
No one was home at the time. The house was used as a weekend/vacation home and was owned by Barbara Openshaw of Annapolis.
The one-alarm blaze took 60 firefighters from the United Communities Volunteer Fire Department and neighboring companies two hours to bring under control, using a tanker task force and dradfting water from the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Damages to the structure and contents were estimated at $700,000.
The five-month investigation led Deputy State Fire Marshals to 18-year-old John Todd Harrison of Stevensville, who was arrested and charged Aug. 23 at his residence on the 100 block of Beachside Drive. He is charged with one count each of first-degree arson, second-degree arson, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary, first-degree malicious buring and malicious destruction of propery over $500.
Deputy State Fire Marshals transported Harrison to the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center. He made his initial appearance in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court and was released on a $20,000 bond the same day.
If convicted, Harrison faces a maximum penalty of 94 years in prison and/or $88,000 in fines.
This case was brought to closure through the effort of local concerned citizens, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, local volunteer fire companies and a thorough investigation, according to the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal.
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Sept. 2.
Reporter Mike Davis contributed to this report.
Fire destroyed a two-story house in Tower Gardens Sunday morning, March 6.