Westminster man given 7 years for arson

May 26, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Charles Amidee Stair Jr. was sentenced yesterday to seven years in state prison for setting fire to his Westminster home in March 1993.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. allowed Stair, 45, to remain free on $75,000 bond while he appeals his January convictions on charges of arson and reckless endangerment.

Stair, a former real estate agent, continued to maintain his innocence at yesterday's two-hour sentencing hearing.

He did not address the court, but his attorney, Ronald A. Silkworth, said Stair already has paid a terrible price for the fire at his West Main Street home March 17, 1993.

"In this case, he has lost his family, his wife, his children, his job and his reputation," Mr. Silkworth said. "His reputation is held in disgrace in Carroll County. He has suffered greatly."

Mr. Silkworth said Stair was a successful member of society who had never been in trouble with law until now. In his request for probation before judgment, Mr. Silkworth said Stair should be given "one bite at the apple" because the arson did not stem from any desire for profit. The attorney said the fire stemmed from a messy divorce involving Stair and his estranged wife.

Deputy State's Attorney Edward M. Ulsch said Stair forfeited all of his previous success, goodwill and conduct when he "decided to go down and set that fire."

"When you . . . decide, 'I'm going to do that,' you're gambling at the table. You're playing on the chance that you're not going to get caught. There are plenty of people who make that decision. They give up a good family, they give up everything and they go to prisons," the prosecutor said.

Judge Burns, calling arson a serious crime that he "feels strongly about," imposed a 10-year sentence for Stair's arson conviction and suspended all but three years. The judge also imposed a concurrent five-year penalty for reckless endangerment and suspended all but two years of it.

Stair was convicted of setting fire to 152 W. Main St., a home he owned with his estranged wife. The blaze caused more than $50,000 damage to the refurbished 90-year-old home.

Stair contended that the fire was set by a group of homeless men and could not have been set by him.

Yesterday, Mr. Silkworth argued unsuccessfully for a new trial and presented affidavits by two cousins who said they saw three men enter Stair's house on the day of the fire.

One of the men the cousins claimed to have seen that day denied being in the house, and a second man they accused was in the county jail that day.

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