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Clear Spring man charged with attempted murder in 2007 fire

September 17, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A Clear Spring man who prompted a manhunt near his home last month has been charged with attempted murder in connection with an unrelated fire in September 2007.

Charges in the Sept. 19, 2007, fire were filed Tuesday against Adam James McKee, 28, of 13242 Gruber Road in Clear Spring, after an investigation into more recent arson threat allegations, Deputy State Fire Marshal Jamie Rodeheaver said in a news release.

In the most recent incident, McKee was charged Sunday night with threatening to burn down a three-story apartment building in the 400 block of Mitchell Avenue, where a woman and her family lived, Washington County District Court documents show.

In the 2007 fire at a single-family home at 39 S. Martin St. in Clear Spring, McKee faces four counts of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree arson, two counts of malicious burning, two counts of malicious destruction of property, five counts of reckless endangerment and one count of telephone misuse, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office.

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Authorities allege that the 2007 fire was started because a woman who lived there wouldn't date McKee.

The two cases were unrelated, Rodeheaver said.

Four people, including children ages 4 and 8, were in the home when the fire started. All got out safely.

McKee was charged last month with possessing a rifle while suffering a mental disorder and having a history of violent behavior against another person or himself.

Deputies on Aug. 7 responded to the home McKee shared with his mother after she reported that the two had been involved in an argument.

Court documents allege that before he left the house and fled into a wooded area armed with a rifle, McKee threatened to kill a police officer and then himself.

The manhunt that ensued involved members of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Maryland State Police, the Department of Natural Resources, and aviation and K-9 units. The situation ended peacefully in less than an hour, with state police taking an unarmed McKee into custody.

McKee was taken to Emergency Psychiatric Services at Washington County Hospital and later released.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst, who on Tuesday filed charges in the 2007 fire, investigated that blaze. In December 2007, he met with an acquaintance of McKee's who said McKee was drinking heavily on the night of the fire and was upset about a woman who lived in the South Martin Street home, according to allegations in charging documents.

A few days after the fire, McKee is alleged to have admitted to that acquaintance that he started the fire, Ernst wrote in charging documents.

McKee's acquaintance alleged that a bag of trash on the front porch was used to ignite the fire, Ernst wrote in court documents.

The trash was placed under a circuit panel on the back porch so the fire would travel into the circuit panel box and look accidental, McKee's acquaintance alleged, according to court documents.

McKee also is alleged to have told his girlfriend that he set the fire, Ernst wrote.

A Maugansville Goodwill Fire Co. firefighter was injured that night when he was shocked by an electrical current while responding to a house fire in Clear Spring, The Herald-Mail reported Sept. 20, 2007.

More than 100 firefighters spent about 45 minutes battling the blaze, the fire marshal said at the time.

McKee appeared Tuesday afternoon in Washington County District Court for a bond review via a closed-circuit video system from the Washington County Detention Center.

Assistant State's Attorney Leon Debes asked Washington County District Judge Ralph H. France II to order that McKee continue to be held without bond, saying he would pose a "serious risk to the victims."

McKee has a history of drug possession charges and a malicious destruction of property charge, Debes said.

According to charging documents related to the rifle possession case, McKee has had four emergency psychiatric commitments and was diagnosed as being schizophrenic.

France ordered that McKee continue to be held without bond, and he remained at the Washington County Detention Center Tuesday night.

McKee's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14.

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