Attempted murder case advances

July 24, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

A state fire marshal testified during a preliminary hearing Wednesday that he believed a Fairplay man used gasoline to set his trailer home on fire in June while his wife was sleeping inside.

Eddie Preston Holmes, 48, of 7825A Sharpsburg Pike, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning, malicious destruction of property and reckless endangerment in connection with the June 27 fire.

After hearing Deputy State Fire Marshal Edward Ernst's testimony Wednesday, District Judge Noel Spence found probable cause to send the case on to Washington County Circuit Court for trial.


"This is a case that smacks of attempted first-degree murder," Spence said at the close of the hearing.

During questioning, Ernst said he was called to the Holmes' trailer home on the night of June 27 and found the fire had burned through the trailer's roof.

Ernst said he found heavy charring, which he likened to alligator skin, near a front door. Because the hole in the roof was above the door, he said he believed that was where the fire began.

He said he thought he smelled gasoline inside the trailer. When he and a local fire official cleared away burned carpet and other debris from the floor, Ernst said, he found a typical sign that an accelerant had been used.

"I could see a (fire) trail that was from that side of the room over to the living room," Ernst said.

Ernst said he took samples of the carpet, which a trained dog later alerted on, indicating the presence of an accelerant. Samples have been sent to a Maryland State Police crime lab for analysis, but the results haven't come back, he said.

Ernst said Shelly Holmes told him she was asleep on her living room couch when she heard a "pop." She awoke to flames and ran to her neighbor's home to call 911. She was treated at Washington County Hospital and released.

Neighbors told Ernst they saw the Holmes' brown Buick Skylark quickly leaving the trailer park at about 10:15 p.m. that night, Ernst testified. The next morning, Ernst said, he found the brown Buick and Eddie Holmes at Holmes' mother's house, where Holmes admitted he argued with his wife the night before.

Spence also considered Holmes' bond status Wednesday but left it unchanged. Holmes is being held at the Washington County Detention Center without bond.

The maximum penalty for a conviction on a charge of attempted murder is life in prison.

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