Two plead guilty in ar­son case

Record Observer - - Front Page - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — Two Stevensville ju­ve­niles have pleaded guilty to charges in a March 6, 2016, ar­son fire that de­stroyed a water­front home on Beach­side Drive in Tower Gar­dens.

One of the boys ad­mit­ted to set­ting fire to the two-story, sin­gle fam­ily, Bay front home caus­ing nearly $700,000 in damages, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Matt Stevens. Both boys were 17 at the time of the fire, Stevens said.

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 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 draft­ing wa­ter from the nearby Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. Damages to the struc­ture and con­tents were es­ti­mated at $700,000.

A plea agree­ment was reached with one boy plead­ing guilty to first-de­gree ar­son and first-de­gree bur­glary; the se­cond boy pleaded guilty to third-de­gree bur­glary, the fire marshal’s of­fice re­ported.

The ju­ve­niles were charged in Au­gust af- ter a lengthy crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by Deputy State Fire Mar­shals.

On Aug. 23, 2016, 18-year-old John Todd Har­ri­son of Stevensville was ar­rested and charged with first-de­gree ar­son, se­cond-de­gree ar­son, first-de­gree bur­glary, se­cond-de­gree bur­glary, fourth-de­gree bur­glary, first-de­gree ma­li­cious burn­ing and ma­li­cious de­struc­tion of property over $500.

Those charges against Har­ri­son have been dis­missed, said Queen Anne’s County State’s At­tor­ney Lance Richard­son.

PHOTO BY GAIL RUPPE

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

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