Columbia man faces prison time after arson verdict

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (KT) - An Adair County man faces a lengthy prison term after being found guilty of federal arson and insurance fraud charges, stemming from a fire in which a firefighter suffered a heart attack and later died.


Russell Coleman, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, announced the verdict against Steve Allen “Boo” Pritchard, 44, of Columbia, following a five-day trial at U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.


According to Coleman, Prichard hatched a plan with his girlfriend, co-defendant Brandi Waggener, to set fire to their rental home, located in Columbia during the early morning hours of June 30, 2011. 


While fighting the fire, Charles Sparks suffered a heart attack on the second floor of the home.  He was rushed to the hospital and died eight days later.  In addition to his service as a volunteer firefighter, Sparks was a longtime Kentucky State Fire Marshal. 


During his trial, Pritchard claimed he was in Louisville delivering glass for his employer at the time of the fire.  However, federal prosecutors introduced cell phone location data obtained by the FBI. 


Family and friends also testified that Pritchard had bragged about starting the fire to collect on the insurance policy.  Prosecutors also introduced evidence establishing that Pritchard had been involved in four previous fires that were set to collect insurance proceeds, one of which involved Pritchard setting fire to his own car. 


Prichard, who was ordered into custody after his conviction, will be sentenced in October.  He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years, with a maximum of life imprisonment, $500,000 fine, and five years of supervised release. 


“The men and women of our fire services are unsung heroes,” said Coleman.  “Greed-fueled arson that endangers those public servants will be appropriately dealt with by the Department of Justice.”


Waggener, who remains free on bond, has already pled guilty to both charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31. 

 

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