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Martinsburg man charged with arson on North High Street

Police say man threw burning mattress over porch, igniting apartment building

January 24, 2013

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Martinsburg man has been charged with starting a fire that caused damage to an apartment building where he lived on North High Street, the Martinsburg Police Department said.

Donald William Smith, 58, of 232 N. High St., was arraigned Wednesday on one count of first-degree arson in Berkeley County Magistrate Court, according to police and court documents.

Police allege Smith lit a mattress on fire and threw it over his porch at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The fire spread to his apartment building, causing structural damage to the porch and side of the building before firefighters could extinguish the flames.

No one was injured as a result of the fire.

Martinsburg Police Department Sgt. J.E. Darby said in his complaint that the defendant admitted taking the mattress from the living room of his apartment, dragging it the porch, lighting it on fire with a lighter and pushing it over the edge of the porch, according to court documents.

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The defendant told police that he had previously put the mattress out for trash collection, but nobody picked it up, according to court documents.

The defendant told police the mattress was dirty and had feces and urine on it, according to court documents.

Darby said there was fresh snow on the ground when he responded to the apartment building, but found no footprints leading to or from the burnt mattress except for those by a city street department worker who also responded, according to court documents.

“This led me to believe that the mattress was lit on fire by someone who resided in the apartment building,” Darby said in his complaint.

“I noticed wet tracks and snow from the groove (sic grove) of a shoe that led to apartment 6 of 232 North High Street, which connects directly to the porch where the mattress was located.”

After repeatedly knocking on the apartment door, Smith acted as if he had just awoke when he came to the door, Darby said in his complaint.

Staff writers Matthew Umstead and Dan Dearth contributed to this story.

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