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Man charged in Hardee's fire to face jury next month

July 12, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A man charged with setting a fire that destroyed a Hardee's restaurant two years ago will be tried next month in Franklin County Court.

A jury was picked Monday for the trial of Eric Christopher Barney, 27, formerly of Greencastle, Pa., on charges of arson, theft, burglary and two counts of criminal trespass, Assistant District Attorney T.R. Williams said. Barney's trial is set for Aug. 15, Williams said.

The Hardee's at 9966 Molly Pitcher Highway, Shippensburg, Pa., was destroyed in the June 22, 2003, fire, according to Pennsylvania State Police. At the time, police estimated the loss at $1 million.

The affidavit of probable cause stated that Barney was the shift manager at the restaurant when it closed at 11 p.m. June 21. The fire was called in at about 4:45 a.m., police said.

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A state police fire marshal determined that the fire was started at two points - in a plastic garbage can at the front counter and in another garbage can in the manager's office. The log book that was supposed to be kept in the safe was found in the office, although the safe was still locked and the door knob to the office was in the locked position, police said.

When the safe was opened, about $2,000 was found to be missing, police said.

Barney told police that after closing the restaurant, he and a friend went to Charles Town (W.Va.) Races & Slots and returned home at about 4 a.m., according to police. Racetrack records showed Barney played slot machines from 12:55 to 2:27 a.m. and that he lost more than $400.

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

Williams said Barney's trial is scheduled to last as long as four days.

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