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Clear Spring man ordered to face charges in arson case

October 16, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A Clear Spring man charged in connection with a Sept. 19, 2007, fire at a South Martin Street home in Clear Spring saw the case against him forwarded to Washington County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Charges were filed in September against Adam James McKee, 29, of 13242 Gruber Road in Clear Spring, after an investigation into more recent arson threat allegations, a deputy state fire marshal has said.

In the more recent incident, McKee was charged 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.

The two cases are unrelated, investigators have said.

McKee was being held without bond Tuesday at the Washington County Detention Center.

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

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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 in connection with the 2007 fire.

After hearing evidence during Tuesday's hearing, Washington County District Judge Mark Thomas found probable cause to forward McKee's case to Washington County Circuit Court.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst originally thought the fire was an accidental electric fire, but information from one of McKee's friends and McKee's girlfriend at the time led him to believe McKee set the fire, Ernst testified Tuesday.

McKee's friend alleged they had been drinking the night of the fire, and had talked with the woman who lived at the South Martin Street home. She had told McKee not to talk to her anymore, Ernst testified. McKee told his friend he had used a bag of trash on the front porch to ignite the fire so that it would look accidental.

McKee also led police on a short manhunt in August when he left the house he shared with his mother, threatening to kill a police officer, then himself. The situation ended peacefully in less than an hour, with state police taking an unarmed McKee into custody.

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

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