Grand jury indicts man on arson charges

Westminster resident lives near sites of 3 fires deliberately set

May 05, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County grand jury indicted a Westminster man yesterday on arson and reckless endangerment charges stemming from three fires alleged to have been deliberately set near his home since December.

Clarence E. Mullinix, 29, of the 200 block of E. Main St. is being held on criminal charges at the county detention center in lieu of $60,000 bail. He is accused of single counts of arson in fires that heavily damaged Cockey's Tavern and a nearby storage garage March 8, court records showed.

The indictments included charges in a six-alarm blaze that destroyed a Goodwill retail outlet store Dec. 23 in the 100 block of W. Main St., said Brian DeLeonardo, special arson prosecutor for the Carroll state's attorney.

The Goodwill-related charges included two counts of first-degree arson and one count each of second-degree arson and reckless endangerment, he said.

About a dozen arson investigators from the state fire marshal's office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms worked to determine the cause of the fire that caused $250,000 in damage at the Goodwill store, operated by Frederick-based Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley -- its only retail outlet in Carroll County.

It took 120 firefighters from 14 Carroll companies and units from Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Howard and Frederick counties about three hours to bring the blaze under control.

One firefighter injured his back when part of the ceiling fell on him. Another firefighter slipped on ice and injured his ankle fighting the fire, officials said. The injured volunteers were treated at Carroll County General Hospital and released.

The second-degree arson count was for the store, DeLeonardo said. The first-degree counts stem from two apartments above the store that were destroyed and the reckless endangerment count covers the occupants in one apartment who were home at the time of the fire, he said.

The pre-fire projection for revenue from the West Main Street Goodwill outlet and three outlets in Frederick County was set at $1.9 million, Goodwill officials said then.

The losses suffered by having no outlet in Westminster in the first quarter of this year were estimated at $70,000, April W. Jensen, chief executive officer for Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley Inc., said yesterday.

"That's for lost sales, not for the destruction of the building," she said.

After the restaurant and garage fires March 8 were determined to have been deliberately set, investigators began to suspect the three incidents were connected and intensified efforts to find whoever was responsible.

According to court documents, Mullinix, who lives down the street from Cockey's Tavern, was arrested by state fire marshals April 5 and charged in the fire at the historic restaurant, parts of which were built in 1790.

At that time, DeLeonardo said at a bail review hearing in Carroll District Court that Mullinix was a suspect in other arsons and called him "a danger to the community."

In charging documents prepared by Sarina Hart, a deputy state fire marshal, witnesses had seen Mullinix at the tavern at 216 E. Main St. the night the fire was set. Damage was estimated at $150,000.

Hart said Mullinix, who lives with his parents in the same block, was interviewed twice before being charged.

Court records show Mullinix was charged April 17 in the garage fire, which erupted two blocks away and three hours after the blaze at Cockey's Tavern broke out at 2 a.m.

Damage to the garage, which was used to store building materials, was estimated at $10,000.

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