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W.Va. man pleads guilty in fire death

January 24, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Gerrardstown man has pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and voluntary manslaughter in a fire last summer in which a man died, according to court officials.

Darren Bradley Riggs, 19, pleaded guilty to the charges Thursday before Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr., officials said.

First-degree arson carries a possible prison sentence of 2 to 20 years and voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 1 to 5 years.

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Riggs originally was charged with murder in the death of 26-year-old Grant W. McDaniel, who lived off Needmore Loop Road, which is located just of W.Va. 45 between Gerrardstown and Martinsburg.

McDaniel died when fire broke out in the two-story frame home he was living in last June, according to court records.

According to Magistrate Court records, fire investigators ruled the fire was arson after hearing Riggs' statement to police that detailed the fire's point of origin. His description matched the findings of fire investigators, court records said.

Former Berkeley County Sheriff Preston B. Gooden said Riggs and McDaniel had been drinking and fighting on the night before the fire.

The fire was discovered by Conrad McDaniel, the victim's father, who lives about 30 feet away. The charred remains of Grant W. McDaniel were found in the rubble of the house, police said.

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