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Bond doubled for man charged with 5 second-degree murder counts

April 10, 2002|BY KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A Washington County District judge Tuesday doubled the bond of a man charged with five counts of attempted second-degree murder in a March 3 house fire on St. Paul Road.

Donald Lee Edwards Jr., 18, of 14702 St. Paul Road, appeared before Judge Ralph France on closed circuit television from the Washington County Detention Center for a bond review Tuesday afternoon.

Edwards' bond had been set at $250,000 Monday. France raised his bond to $500,000 at the request of Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Robert Veil.

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"The state believes the bond should be substantial in this case because the charges are extremely serious," Veil said.

Dianna Blair, 48, Randy and Ryan Blair, both 19, Austin Thompson, 9, and Lane Foxworthy, 19 months, were at home at 14658 St. Paul Road when fire broke out, he said.

Edwards also was charged with one count each of reckless endangerment, first-degree arson and possession of a destructive device.

Charges of theft and fleeing and eluding against Edwards are pending in Pennsylvania, said Veil, who gave the judge a copy of Edwards' juvenile records.

Edwards declined to speak in his defense and said he had applied to be represented by a public defender.

Maryland State Deputy Fire Marshal Bruce Shafer alleged in charging documents that Edwards had a dispute with Randy Blair about an unpaid debt.

According to allegations in charging documents filed by Shafer, Edwards crept up to his neighbor's home, smashed a window with a baseball bat and threw a Molotov cocktail-style device inside.

"Dianna Blair was awakened from her sleep by the sound of breaking glass and went to investigate. Dianna Blair found the living room floor of her house on fire with the fire spreading," Shafer said in charging documents.

Blair got her children safely out of the house. Firefighters were unable to save the house. Damage to the house and possessions was estimated at $180,000, he said in charging documents.

The fire was severe and could have resulted in a loss of lives, the fire marshal said.

Shafer said a neighbor remembered hearing a vehicle leaving at a high rate of speed before the fire. Another person reported seeing the crime committed and the person responsible leaving the scene in a vehicle with other people, charging documents alleged.

The fire was at first thought to have been caused by an electrical malfunction. It later was found to have been deliberately set after investigators received additional information from witnesses and examined the electrical system further.

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