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Man pleads guilty to arson in Clear Spring fire

October 20, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A man who was charged with four counts of attempted murder in a September 2007 fire at 39 S. Martin St. in Clear Spring pleaded guilty Monday in Washington County Circuit Court to first-degree arson.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped all other charges against Adam James McKee, 30, of Clear Spring. He had been charged with 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

Four people -- including children ages 4 and 8 -- were in the home when the fire started, and all got out safely, a deputy state fire marshal said at the time.

McKee is expected to be sentenced within 45 days. Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer ordered a presentence investigation to be completed.

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

McKee's trial was postponed several times. On Nov. 21, 2008, he entered a plea of not criminally responsible. The defense contended that McKee was incompetent to stand trial and did not understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, court records show.

A judge on Dec. 1, 2008, ordered that McKee be evaluated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In a joint motion by the defense and prosecution, the case was continued in June.

McKee has had several encounters with law enforcement.

In a more recent arson case, McKee was charged Sept. 14, 2008, with threatening to burn down a three-story apartment building in the 400 block of Mitchell Avenue, where a woman and her family lived. The charge in that case was dropped, according to court records online.

McKee also led police on a short manhunt in August 2008, 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.

He pleaded guilty to possession of a rifle as a person who suffers from a mental disorder and was sentenced to time served, 275 days in jail.

McKee was being held Tuesday evening at the Washington County Detention Center.

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