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Man charged in $1 million Hardee's fire to stand trial

August 21, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Greencastle, Pa., man charged with setting the $1 million fire that destroyed a Hardee's restaurant in Shippensburg, Pa., waived his mandatory arraignment Wednesday in Franklin County Court and his case was scheduled to be heard during the November trial term.

Eric Christopher Barney, 26, of 8197 Talhelm Road, is charged with arson and theft in the June 22 fire at the fast-food restaurant where he worked as a night manager, according to court records.

He has remained in Franklin County Prison on $75,000 bond since he turned himself in to Pennsylvania State Police several days after the fire.

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According to police, Barney closed the restaurant at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. The fire was reported at 4:45 a.m. Sunday.

Investigators found about $2,000 missing from the office safe, although it was still locked, according to the affidavit. The charred remains of a log book kept in the safe were found in the office, police said.

Investigators found the door to the office was locked, but the fire had been set in a trash can inside the office, as well as a trash can near the front counter, according to court records.

Pennsylvania State Police met with Barney the next day, according to the affidavit. He allegedly told police he went to Charles Town (W.Va.) Race & Slots with a friend and returned home at about 4 a.m.

Race track records showed he played slot machines from 12:55 to 2:27 a.m., losing more than $400, police said.

A newspaper delivery woman reported seeing a silver Ford Mustang similar to one Barney recently had purchased leaving the Hardee's parking lot at 9966 Molly Pitcher Highway shortly before the fire was spotted by an off-duty police officer.

Barney's bail originally was set at $500,000, but was later reduced.

If convicted on both counts, he could face up to 17 years in prison.

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