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Man charged with arson was out on bail

December 30, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A Chambersburg man charged Wednesday with setting a fire that caused an estimated $200,000 in damage had been out on bail for allegedly setting his apartment on fire in November.

Robert J. Smith, 27, of 270 S. Main St., Apt. 3, was charged by borough police with first-degree felony arson in Wednesday's fire at Person Directed Supports Inc., 978 Lincoln Way East. He remained in Franklin County Prison Thursday on $500,000 bond.

The Chambersburg Fire Department was called out at 1:09 p.m. for a fire at the business and several witnesses told police Smith had been seen near the building before the fire and was seen coming out of the rear of the building as it filled with smoke, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

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Smith also told someone at the scene that he was responsible for setting the fire, police said. When taken into custody, Smith had a butane lighter on him, police said.

Smith allegedly used the lighter to set fire to a handkerchief, which he then used to set a piece of furniture on fire, according to the affidavit.

"Smith said that he was feeling depressed at the time and intentionally set the fire," the affidavit states. "Smith said that he stayed in the room until he could no longer stand the smoke," it states.

Two firefighters were treated for minor burns to their faces and hands sustained in Wednesday's fire, according to Chambersburg Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Murray.

On Nov. 6, a fire was set to a mattress in Smith's apartment at The Village Apartments, 270 S. Main St. Smith was charged with second-degree felony arson and a third-degree felony charge of causing or risking a catastrophe, according to Detective William Frisby.

Smith, also known as Bobby Joe Smith, was jailed on $25,000 bond, but was released on bail on Nov. 10, according to prison records.

Although police still listed his address as 270 S. Main St., Smith was staying at Person Directed Support Inc., according to Ken Gibat, its chief executive officer.

"He was the only person residing there," said Gibat, who said a staff person was also in the building at the time of the fire. Gibat said Person Directed Support is a nonprofit agency that provides support services for disadvantaged and disabled adults.

"He was someone we were currently supporting," Gibat said.

Prior to the Nov. 6 fire, Frisby said Smith had no known criminal record.

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