Martinsburg man charged with setting fire to his home while wife, children were inside

July 09, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Martinsburg man who police say started a fire last week at his South Raleigh Street home while his wife and five children were inside was being held Tuesday on a first-degree arson charge, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Darren Eugene Butler, 38, was arrested Tuesday by Martinsburg Police Department detectives at an area hotel, according to a news release by Lt. G.B. Swartwood.

Butler was in Eastern Regional Jail Tuesday night on a $50,000 cash bond set by Magistrate JoAnn Overington.

No one was injured in the blaze at 703 S. Raleigh St., which was reported at about 5:45 a.m. July 1.

Gregory Hoover, the Martinsburg Fire Department's chief fire investigator, said Tuesday that the fire caused an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 in damage to the two-story, wood-frame home.


The fire was started in two separate locations - in the basement and in the living room on the first floor, according to fire and police investigators.

Hoover's investigation revealed that both fires appeared to have been started with combustible materials and an open flame, according to a criminal complaint filed in magistrate court. The living room fire started on the couch or couch cushions, according to investigators.

Officials determined the defendant and his wife had a little more than $60,000 in debt liabilities and that a renter's insurance policy provided $52,150 in coverage for personal property loss and $65,000 for loss of use, according to Swartwood's complaint.

Butler's wife told Hoover she was unaware that the insurance was obtained since another fire at the home in February, according to Swartwood's complaint.

Butler told Hoover that the February fire was a result of him leaving an iron on, according to the complaint.

The July 1 fire happened the day before Butler's 38th birthday, according to court records.

According to statements compiled by Swartwood, Butler allegedly gave conflicting accounts to investigators of where he was when the fire was discovered.

In one version, Butler said he was in bed asleep upstairs with his wife when he was awakened by a smoke detector. In a second statement, he said he was asleep downstairs on the couch, according to the complaint.

Butler's wife told investigators she met her husband downstairs after she awoke to the sound of the smoke detector alarms, according to the complaint.

After getting the children out of the house, Butler's wife heard explosive noises, which her husband said were coming from an old air conditioner, according to court records.

The woman later said Butler told her that investigators determined the cause of the blaze was electrical, according to the complaint.

On Monday, she told police she obtained a protective order against Butler and did not know where he was, according to the complaint.

Butler was arrested at about 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, Swartwood said.

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