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Attorney accused of setting fire at Martinsburg law firm

May 06, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An attorney is charged with setting a fire at the Martinsburg law firm where she worked in September 2007 and then attempting to set another fire there in April 2008, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Ashley R. Shreve, 28, of 2316 Longboat Court in Richmond, Va., was arrested Wednesday in Richmond by Henrico County (Va.) police, Berkeley County Sheriff's Lt. B.F. Hall said Thursday.

Shreve is charged with one count each of second-degree arson, attempted arson and terrorist threats, according to warrants issued April 29 by Magistrate Sandra L. Miller, court records show.

Hall said Shreve waived extradition and is expected to be returned to Berkeley County to face the charges in the next few days.

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The fire Sept. 20, 2007, at McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner L.C., at 275 Aikens Center, caused "thousands of dollars" in damage, possibly between $5,000 and $10,000, Hall said.

Shreve was a resident of Spring Mills in Berkeley County when she worked at the law firm, Hall said.

She no longer works there and moved to the Richmond area after the April 2008 attempted arson, according to police.

The fire was reported at 5:45 a.m. Shreve and another employee were the last two staff members to leave the office the evening before the fire, according to court records.

A box of legal documents in a legal assistant's office were intentionally set on fire and a box of files that were found under Shreve's desk also had fire damage, according to court records.

On April 4, 2008, an employee told police that she smelled something burning in the area of a women's bathroom at the law firm shortly after Shreve left the bathroom, according to court records.

The employee found in the bathroom that someone tried to set fire to a piece of ceiling tile and an area beneath the sink, according to court records. A burnt wad of tissue was found in the trash can. The burn mark on the ceiling appeared to have been made with a lighter, according to court records.

Additional investigation of the arson attempt led to the discovery that someone attempted to set fire to a box of files in a legal assistant's office, according to court records.

Two bomb threat letters were found at the law office in June 2007. Another was mailed to Westfield Insurance next door in October 2007, according to court records.

In the bomb threat mailed to Westfield, the note quoted in court records said, "Bombs are around in the ceilings and on the ground!!! You didn't get the message when I set your neighbor on fire. So now I must threaten you."

Received on Oct. 15, 2007, the threat prompted Westfield Insurance employees to evacuate their offices, according to court records. The letter had a Martinsburg postmark on it, police said.

West Virginia State Police forensic experts later determined that a DNA sample recovered from the envelope used to send the bomb threat letter to Westfield matched a sample of Shreve's DNA, according to court records. A sample of Shreve's DNA was obtained in November 2009 for comparison through a search warrant, Hall said.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department also received two letters in October and November 2007 that taunted investigators for not solving the arson at the law firm, according to court records.

Admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in October 2006, Shreve on Thursday was listed as an "active" member on the association's Web-based directory.

Hall said Shreve graduated from West Virginia University College of Law.

Robert W. "Bob" Trumble, director of the law firm's Martinsburg office, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

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