Edgewood man held on arson charges from October house fire

Told investigators he was trying to rid home of 'evil spirits,' Fire Marshal's Office says

  • State fire marshals have charged William E. Lowry with arson in connection with a fire at Lowry's Edgewood home on Oct. 11.
State fire marshals have charged William E. Lowry with arson… (Harford County Sheriff's…)
November 05, 2012|AEGIS STAFF REPORT

A 69-year-old Edgewood man, who told investigators he was trying to rid his home of "evil spirits," has been charged with arson in connection with a fire at the dwelling last month.

William E. Lowry was served with warrants at the Harford County Detention Center on Thursday charging him with first-degree and second-degree arson in connection with the Oct. 11 fire, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

"The investigation by deputy state fire marshals revealed the owner of the property, William E. Lowry, 69, was responsible for intentionally setting the fire on an enclosed deck connected to the home," the Fire Marshal's Office said in a news release announcing the charges. "While Lowry was rescued by firefighters, his dog perished in the fire."

Lowry, who suffered burns in the fire, remains jailed at the detention center on $100,000 bond, Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver J. Alkire said Saturday morning.

"The charges against Mr. Lowry were brought after consultation with the Harford County State's Attorney's Office," Alkire said.

Lowry has been at the detention center since his release from the hospital because of an outstanding warrant in an unrelated case.

That earlier case initially involved charges that Lowry had allegedly exposed himself in the Bel Air Chuck E. Cheese restaurant on two occasions in 2011. The most serious of those charges were eventually dropped, after Lowry had been placed under psychiatric evaluation by order of a judge until he was competent to stand trial, according to court records.

'Psychological issues'

Alkire said the Fire Marshal's Office is aware Lowry has "psychological issues."

"Mr. Lowry told our investigators he was trying to 'rid his house of evil spirits,'" Alkire said. "While we don't know if he was deliberately trying to harm himself, it did not appear he was concerned about his safety."

In April 2011, in court on the indecent exposure charges, Lowry underwent a psychological evaluation and at one point was deemed incompetent to stand trial, District Court John Dunnigan recalled during Lowry's bail review Monday in Bel Air on the arson charges.

Lowry's public defender, Bruce Andres, said he wasn't concerned about the defendant's mental faculties when spoke with Lowry that morning.

"He may be lucid today, but you may want to check into that issue," Dunnigan said. "It may be a good idea, especially considering the charges he's facing and 25 years in jail."

"I'm looking out for your best interests, Mr. Lowry," Dunnigan told Lowry.

"I'll do whatever you say your honor. I just want to comply with the law," Lowry replied via closed circuit television from the Harford County Detention Center.

Dunnigan kept Lowry's bail at $1 million.

If convicted of the arson charges, Lowry faces up to 50 years in prison and/or up to $80,000 in fines, the fire marshal's office said.

$175,000 damages in fire

The fire, at 214-B Kennard Ave., occurred at 5:30 a.m., in the one-story, wood frame single family dwelling and caused an estimated $175,000 in damages. The fire was reported by a neighbor and brought 30 firefighters from Abingdon, Joppa-Magnolia and Aberdeen Proving Ground to the scene.

Upon arrival, firefighters made entry, conducted a search of the home and located the owner, Lowry, in the basement, according to the fire marshal's office.

Lowry was rescued by firefighters and subsequently transported to Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore by Joppa-Magnolia Fire/EMS.

At the time of the fire, Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company's public information officer said Lowry was found unconscious and had suffered "significant burns" but was expected to survive. There were no other injuries reported, and nobody else was in the home except Lowry and the dog.

According to Alkire, Lowry was taken to Shepard Pratt Hospital in Towson for psychiatric evaluations after he was released from Bayview for treatment of his burns from the fire.

Maryland online court records show that when the fire occurred, a warrant was also out for Lowry, issued on Oct. 3 in connection with an alleged probation violation from an April 2011 case in which Lowry received probation before judgment on a charge of resisting/interfering with an arrest.

Court records show Lowry, who pleaded not guilty, was fined $5,000 and placed on supervised probation until June 8, 2013.

Lowry also had been charged with two counts of indecent exposure and a single count of disorderly conduct in connection with the same incident, according to court records. Those three charges were dropped.

Chuck E. Cheese case

According to an Aegis news report from 2011, Lowry was accused of exposing himself inside the Chuck E. Cheese in the Festival at Bel Air Shopping Center.

He was arrested and charged April 6, 2011, with indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after allegedly exposing himself inside the Chuck E. Cheese two days in a row.

During Lowry's bail review hearing the day after his 2011 arrest, Dunnigan, who was also sitting in court that day, ordered Lowry to held without bail at the detention center pending an evaluation and competency hearing, according to the news report.

The following Monday, April 11, 2011, correctional officers at the detention center were preparing to bring Lowry in for an additional bail hearing until District Court Judge Victor Butanis told them it was unnecessary. Lowry was found not competent to stand trial, and Dunnigan later ordered that he be committed to Spring Grove Hospital, Butanis said at the time.

The indecent exposure case was moved to inactive status based on the not competent finding.

Lowry was subsequently released from commitment on July 7, 2011, after the exposure case was adjudicated with the probation before judgment finding on the resisting arrest charge, according to court records.

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