Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Man admits to arson
By Shelley Grieshop
MINSTER - A local man during an emotional outburst in court Tuesday admitted he was angry with his pregnant girlfriend when he set fire to his former home nearly a year ago.
Chad Bowers, 29, now of New Bremen, pleaded guilty to aggravated arson, a second-degree felony, during the hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court in Wapakoneta. A more serious first-degree felony charge of aggravated arson was dismissed during two hours of plea negotiations.
A five-day jury trial set to begin Monday was canceled.
Bowers faces a maximum eight years in prison and a $15,000 fine; a sentencing date has not been set. Judge Frederick Pepple warned Bowers "this statute presumes prison is necessary."
County assistant prosecutor Benjamin Elder requested Bowers receive community control sanctions (probation with conditions that could include jail) and pay $1,442.56 to the State Fire Marshal's Office for aid in the fire investigation.
Judge Frederick Pepple said he could also order Bowers to pay $102,000 to his insurance company, which compensated his home mortgage lender. The judge said he also may require Bowers to reimburse the Minster Fire Department if they request it.
Pepple allowed Bowers to remain out of jail until sentencing on condition he obey terms of a previously posted $100,000 bond. Prior to continuing the bond, the judge asked Bowers why he shouldn't lock him up until sentencing.
"What else can I lose?" Bowers replied, describing the pain he caused his family.
He begged the judge to keep him near his family and allow him to maintain his full-time job at a sporting goods store in Sidney.
Bowers began to cry as he recalled the night of Feb. 25. He told Pepple he had been drinking when he set fire to his girlfriend's Teddy bear after learning she was pregnant. No one was injured in the blaze but the home sustained heavy damage.
Wearing dress pants and a button-down shirt, Bowers told the court he no longer drinks alcohol, has undergone counseling and never again wants to hurt his loved ones like this.
"I'm no good to my family if I go back to this," he tearfully explained as his mother and brother wept in the courtroom behind him.
His attorney, John Poppe, told the court that Bowers and his girlfriend have reunited and together are raising their 3-month-old child. Bowers also has a 10-year-old son from another relationship, the attorney noted.
Poppe openly told the court that Bowers previously was convicted for two drunken driving violations. On the night of the fire, he was charged with criminal trespassing and assault for an altercation that took place at his mother's home. Bowers remains on court probation for those charges, Poppe said.
Elder told the court Bowers was drunk and alone inside the home at 31 W. Fifth Street when he started the fire in the kitchen/dining room area.
"The burn pattern in the laminate floor showed an accelerant was used to start the fire," Elder said.
Witnesses told authorities they saw Bowers exit the home at 11:30 p.m. as smoke and flames poured from the garage area. They summoned Minster police and firefighters arrived by 11:35 p.m., Elder said.
At one point, Bowers attempted to re-enter the burning home to retrieve his dog and a car but was restrained by officers. He told authorities at the scene he had smelled smoke and fled the home, Elder stated in court.