Two plead guilty in arson case
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.
Fire destroyed a two-story house in Tower Gardens Sunday morning, March 6.