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Man charged in Hardee's fire waives hearing

July 09, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Greencastle, Pa., area man charged with the $1 million fire that destroyed a Hardee's restaurant is scheduled for mandatory arraignment on Aug. 20 after waiving his preliminary hearing Tuesday in Franklin County Central Court.

Eric Christopher Barney, 26, of 8197 Talhelm Road, is charged by Pennsylvania State Police with arson and theft in the June 22 fire at the fast-food restaurant near Shippensburg, Pa., where he worked, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams said the prosecution agreed to a proposal by Public Defender Michael Toms to reduce Barney's bail from $500,000 to $75,000. Barney was still in Franklin County Prison Tuesday afternoon.

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According to police, Barney was the night manager at Hardee's and closed the business at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. The fire was reported at 4:45 the next morning.

After the fire was put out, investigators found approximately $2,000 missing from the office safe, which was still locked. The charred remains of a log book kept in the safe, along with rolls of coins also were found in the rubble, according to the affidavit.

The remains of the doorknob to the office indicated it was locked, although the fire had been set in an office trash can. Investigators also found evidence of a second fire set in another trash can near the front counter.

When police met with Barney on June 23, he said that after work he had gone with a friend to Charles Town (W.Va.) Races & Slots and returned home at about 4 a.m., court records said.

Race track records showed he had played slot machines from 12:55 a.m. to 2:27 a.m. and lost more than $400, according to the affidavit.

Police said a newspaper delivery woman reported seeing a silver Ford Mustang speed out of the Hardee's parking lot shortly before the fire was reported. Barney had recently bought a Mustang, according to police.

Conviction on felony charges of both arson and theft carries a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison.

At mandatory arraignments, defendants can plead guilty or not guilty or ask for a continuance of their cases. Williams said Barney was not likely to be scheduled for trial before the November term of court.

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