Stevensville man charged with ar­son

Record Observer - - News - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY GAIL RUPPE

Fire de­stroyed a two-story house in Tower Gar­dens Sun­day morn­ing, March 6.

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