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Bond set for man accused of arson

June 04, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - A Hancock man accused of setting a fire Monday at the mobile home in which his estranged wife lived had at least three confrontations with his wife within the last month leading up to the fire, according to documents filed in Washington County District Court.

Edward Harrison Ritchie, 49, of 18 Fleming Court in Hancock, was being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $1 million bond Tuesday.

Ritchie was arrested at the mobile home Monday after a witness told police he saw Ritchie trying to set the trailer on fire, according to allegations in charging documents filed in District Court Monday. The man told police that after the trailer began to smoke, Ritchie asked for a ride, charging documents say.

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After an investigation by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, Ritchie was charged with first-degree arson, threatening arson and two counts of reckless endangerment.

At a bond review hearing Tuesday afternoon, Judge Noel Spence left Ritchie's bond at $1 million.

At the hearing, Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long told Spence that while Ritchie has a prior record of relatively minor crimes - drunken driving offenses in West Virginia - he requested the bond remain at $1 million "due to the serious nature of these charges."

Ritchie also was charged with second-degree assault in connection with an unserved criminal summons issued May 11.

According to charging documents, Hancock police were called to the mobile home May 8.

Hancock Police Officer Timothy Buskirk said in the documents that Edward Ritchie told him the two had a heated argument after he was awoken by the phone ringing early in the morning. He was "upset because he works at night and his wife was outside setting, talking to the neighbors and not answering the phone," the documents said.

Mary Jane Ritchie, 56, told Buskirk her husband had thrown the phone at her, striking her on the elbow and leaving a bruise about the size of a quarter, according to the papers.

Two weeks later, on May 25, according to allegations in a protective order petition Mary Ritchie filed May 27, Edward Ritchie was drunk when he threatened his wife with a knife, tore her blouse off and "slapped, shoved, choked" and verbally abused her.

According to papers filed Monday, Mary Ritchie told police she was walking into Hancock on Monday when her husband rode up in a taxi and ordered her into the cab.

The charging documents said he began to threaten her. When the cab driver stopped to let her out, Edward Ritchie told his wife "she would never live in the trailer, that he would set the trailer on fire," the documents allege.

Later that day, one of the Ritchies' neighbors saw Edward Ritchie get out of a cab, walk to the trailer and open a crawl-space door, the court papers allege.

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