10/15/09 — Arson attempted at courthouse, again

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Arson attempted at courthouse, again

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 15, 2009 1:46 PM

A toilet paper arsonist struck the Wayne County Courthouse for the third time in recent months Tuesday morning, authorities said Wednesday.

Housekeeping staff stumbled onto the fire just after 8 a.m., when a housekeeper entered the first-floor bathroom, according to a Wayne County Sheriff's Office report.

The housekeeper encountered an acrid smell from a familiar source -- a charred toilet paper roll stuffed above ceiling tiles above the stalls.

This is the third time someone has attempted arson in this way, Wayne County buildings and grounds facilities director Sue Farmer said.

"It seems to be a popular point of fire development, I guess," Ms. Farmer said. "It looked like somebody had attempted to set a fire above the ceiling tiles. We called the Sheriff's Office to do an investigation, and then cleaned it up."

Maintenance technician James Hill found the charred roll above the drop ceiling.

Sheriff's Office Capt. Tom Effler said Hill "seems to have a talent for finding these things," as he had stumbled across the rolls in the other two incidents as well.

Effler confirmed this is the third time a similar incident has occurred in the same area, and said an investigation is continuing.

According to the Sheriff's Office report, the fire caused about $30 in damages to two ceiling tiles, which were replaced, Ms. Farmer said.

A person accused of the damage could be subject to a charge of first-degree arson, according to the report.

According to state law, if a dwelling or building is occupied at the time of burning, a person can be charged with arson in the first degree.

The charge is a Class D felony, punishable by over three years in prison to as long as 15 years, depending on a defendant's prior record, state law holds.