Man pleads guilty to setting home on fire, gets prison time

November 16, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A Chambersburg man charged with setting his home on fire with Molotov cocktails in January will be going to state prison after entering a plea agreement Monday in Franklin County Court.

James L. Gipe Sr., 44, of 101 Eisenhower Drive, pleaded guilty last Wednesday before Judge John R. Walker to charges of arson and recklessly endangering another person, according to Assistant District Attorney Matthew Fogal. As part of the plea agreement, Gipe will serve 31/2 to eight years in state prison, Fogal said.

Gipe's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15, according to court records.

On Jan. 5, Chambersburg police went to Gipe's home after receiving a report of a domestic dispute, according to the affidavit of probable cause. When police arrived, Gipe was inside the house holding two knives, police said.


The patrol officers attempted to talk Gipe out of the house, but he lit several Molotov cocktails in the living room, police said. When police went inside, Gipe was sitting on the couch holding the knives and the living room was on fire, according to police.

The affidavit stated Gipe was disarmed and taken from the house. The Chambersburg Fire Department put out the fire, police said.

As part of the plea agreement, charges of aggravated assault and causing or risking a catastrophe were dismissed, according to court records.

"There were mental health issues" that contributed to Gipe's actions, according to Assistant Public Defender Jeremiah Zook. Despite Gipe's actions, Zook said no one was hurt in the incident and damage to the house was minor.

"I think it was a good outcome," Zook said of the plea agreement and proposed sentence.

The Molotov cocktails were made of bottles of rubbing alcohol with rags stuffed in the necks, Zook said.

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