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Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Local arsonists must register under new law

By Margie Wuebker
Convicted arsonists Ridge A. Matthews and Robert E. Milligan II will be the first local residents affected by the state's new arson registry that went into effect July 1.
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham on Wednesday outlined the registration requirements when the 19-year-olds appeared for sentencing on four counts of arson linked to a rash of July car fires in Celina.
Matthews, 5382 Lakeside Drive, Celina, and Milligan II, 113 S. Fourth St., Apt. 1, Coldwater, received community control sanctions instead of prison and were ordered to pay a total of $3,720.76 in restitution.
"The court believes restitution to the victims is more important than sitting in jail," he said. "Each of you alluded to showing the court you are worthy of making changes. Speaking words doesn't say much, actions do."
The men faced up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine on each fourth-degree felony count.
The new arson law requires the men to register annually with the appropriate sheriff's office for a period of 10 years. Each must pay $50 for his first registration and provide fingerprints and palm prints. The registration fee drops to $25 in subsequent years.
Similar to sex offender registration guidelines, arson offenders must contact authorities if they move, change places of employment or use a different vehicle.
In addition to three years supervision, Ingraham ordered both men to seek psychological evaluations and follow counseling recommendations.
In the event of a violation, the judge could impose a prison sentence and decide whether the time is to be served consecutively or concurrently.
Milligan, who was represented by court-appointed attorney Jeffrey P. Knapke, read from a written statement.
"I'm sorry for the things I've done," he told the judge. "Sorry is just a word ... I want to show friends and family but most of all you and the people I victimized that I am sorry."
Attorney James A. Tesno spoke on behalf of Matthews, who declined the opportunity to address the court.
"These two young gentlemen made some really stupid decisions," Tesno said. "They chose the wrong path."
He added Matthews has been involved in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in an attempt to better himself. He also has been accepted into a Rainbow Sales training program, Tesno noted.
Ingraham pointed out that both defendants were under municipal court sanctions at the time of the offenses.
The men set fire to four vehicles - a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am, a 2000 Ford F150 pickup truck, a 2000 Chevy Blazer and a 1997 Chevy Monte Carlo - on July 30. The offenses occurred in a residential area of Kensington Court, Meadowview Drive and Queensbury Drive.
Celina firefighters, the State Fire Marshal's Office and Celina Police were involved in the investigation.
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