Westminster man guilty of setting home on fire

January 30, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

A Carroll County jury has convicted a Westminster man of setting fire to his West Main Street home last spring.

On Friday, the jury found Charles Amidee Stair Jr., 44, guilty of arson and reckless endangerment after about 11 hours of deliberations over two days.

Stair's attorney, Margaret Mead, said her client plans to appeal the verdict.

Stair was charged with setting the fire on March 17 at his 152 W. Main St. home. The fire caused $50,000 in damage to the 90-year-old house.

In his testimony during the three-day trial, Stair denied setting the fire and said he wasn't near his home that day.

Stair testified that on March 17 he went to his real estate office in Finksburg, then to Towson and Reisterstown. His next stop was the Westminster McDonald's and two Westminster banks. He said he then met his divorce attorney at his Catonsville office before 4 p.m.

The prosecution conceded that no one witnessed Mr. Stair set the fire; however, several people testified that they saw him near the house shortly after the fire would have begun.

Assistant State's Attorney Ed Ulsch also presented testimony that he said showed Stair had a motive to set the fire.

Stair and his wife, Sally J. Stair, are going through a bitter divorce and custody case, according to testimony and court records. That fact, combined with an impending foreclosure on their house, may have led Stair to set the fire, Mr. Ulsch said.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. denied a prosecution request to jail Stair after the verdict. Stair remains free on $75,000 bond. But Judge Burns ordered Stair to have no contact with his wife.

Stair could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years for the arson conviction. The reckless endangerment conviction carries a maximum $15,000 fine and a jail term of no more than five years, Mr. Ulsch said.

Judge Burns said sentencing will be in about two months.

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