UPDATE: Man Released from Prison for Incident that Led to Firefighter's Death

By: Jennifer Rizzi, WSAZ News Staff Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi, WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 6/24/13 @ 10:30 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man who set a fire that led to the death of a firefighter has been released from prison.

Charles Roberts was serving a five-year sentence. He was convicted of starting a fire under a bridge along Corridor G in 2011.

Firefighter Joey King fell off the bridge and died while trying to find the fire.

On Monday, the judge in the case suspended Roberts' sentence and put him on probation for a year and ordered him to get drug abuse treatment.

It’s a decision that isn't sitting well with King's family.

“He did the crime, he should do the time,” said Arietta King, who is Joey King’s sister. "I mean, 2014 is just another year and a half from now. That’s now going to bring my brother’s life back.”

Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman said, “There needs to be a court-monitored component of drug and alcohol rehab outside of the prison system to make sure that as best we can, that this type of tragedy or something similar doesn't happen again.”

Roberts told police he was under the influence of drugs when he started the fire.



UPDATE 10/21/12 @ 9:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A volunteer firefighter who lost his life on the job was remembered Sunday afternoon in a special ceremony that honored all of West Virginia's fallen firefighters.

Joey King died back in December while investigating an arson in Davis Creek. He was killed after falling from a bridge while looking for that fire.

Firefighters from all over flocked to the Capitol Complex to show respect for King and their entire brotherhood.

"The general public doesn't realize the dangers firefighters face on a daily basis," Davis Creek Fire Chief Jeff Snodgrass said.

Wreaths were laid by the fallen firefighter memorial in King's honor, and his family was given roses to place by the statue. Longtime girlfriend Sonja Carson said she appreciated the ceremony.

"It just keeps bringing back memories," Sonja Carson said. "I am so grateful that I have so much support. The fire department has been excellent, they have just been so good to us."

Joey's sister, Arietta King, agreed. "I thought it was amazing," she said. "How they respected Joey and showed him honor from different departments."

Representatives of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Joe Manchin spoke at the ceremony. Governor Tomblin declared October 21 as firefighter memorial day.



UPDATE 8/28/12 @ 6:20 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A night of partying that led to arson and the death of a firefighter is sending a man to prison.

Charles Roberts was sentenced to six years on arson and involuntary manslaughter charges.

Roberts set more than 100 railroad ties on fire under a bridge along Corridor G last December.

Joey King, a firefighter, died when he fell off a bridge as he was looking for that fire.

“Partying, setting those railroad ties on fire; I never thought anything would happen like this,” Roberts said at his sentencing.

Because of that fire, King's family is spending what would be his 61st birthday mourning his death.

“I pick up the phone and dial his number, and he's not there, no answer. I've done it several times,” Arietta King, Joey King’s sister, said.

That’s how it has been since December when King died.

“A year's not enough time for Joey’s life,” King’s girlfriend, Kay Carson, told the judge.

His girlfriend, his family and his fellow firefighters all asked the judge to give Roberts the maximum sentence.

“We might never know what happened to Joey that night on the bridge, why he fell. But we do know one thing for sure. Mr. Roberts put him on that bridge by setting that fire,” Davis Creek Fire Chief Jeff Snodgrass said.

Convicted on two counts of arson and involuntary manslaughter, Roberts will now spend six years behind bars.

“I'm ashamed of myself,” Roberts said as he apologized to King’s family, friends and co-workers.

While some say they can't accept his apology, others say it's what King would want.

“I forgive him, but I'll never forget him,” Arietta King said. “He's the one who took my brother from me.”



UPDATE 8/28/12 @ 2:20 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man charged in the death of a volunteer firefighter from Kanawha County will spend the maximum time behind bars.

Charles Roberts was sentenced Tuesday at the Kanawha County Courthouse in Charleston.

Roberts will serve six years behind bars in connection with the death of Joey King.

Earlier this year, Roberts pleaded guilty to third and fourth-degree arson for setting more than 100 railroad ties on fire.

He also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. That's because when searching for that fire, firefighter Joey King fell from a bridge and died.

Roberts apologized to the family during the hearing before he was sentenced.



UPDATE 7/13/12 @ 6:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An intentionally set fire last December led to a firefighter's death. Friday, a man took responsibility for that. He also came face to face with that firefighter's family.

“My life was really torn apart because of your careless mistake,” Edna Quinby, Joey King’s daughter, said to Charles Roberts.

Roberts pleaded guilty to third and fourth-degree arson for setting more than 100 railroad ties on fire.

He also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. That's because when searching for that fire, firefighter Joey King fell from a bridge and died.

As King rests in peace, his daughter spoke her piece.

“I forgive you for that and I believe you didn't purposely mean to do something,” Quinby said.

After that statement, Roberts apologized -- saying he was sorry for what happened.

Joey King's sister, Arietta King, has just been through seven months of devastation. She says Roberts was to blame. However, after his apology, she also forgives him and even went as far as to wish him the best.

“He's got a chance to do good in his life now. He's got a second chance, and that's what my brother would want,” Arietta King said.

A second chance isn’t all he’s being given. In the courtroom, King's daughter handed him a heart necklace and said, “My heart's with my daddy. I forgive you.”

Roberts will be sentenced Aug. 28, which also happens to be Joey King's birthday.



UPDATE 7/13/12 @ 1:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man charged with starting a fire that killed firefighter from Kanawha County admitted to the crime Friday.

Charles Roberts was indicted on first-degree murder and arson charges back in April. However, on Friday Roberts appeared in a Charleston courtroom to plead guilty to three lesser charges, including third-degree arson, fourth-degree arson and involuntary manslaughter.

Investigators say last December Roberts set more than 100 railroad ties on fire under a bridge along Corridor G. Firefighter Joey King responded to the fire and somehow fell off the bridge while he was looking for the fire.

Roberts' trial was set to begin this week, but was postponed until Friday.

Roberts' sentencing is scheduled for August 28. That's ironically Joey King's birthday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/11/12 @ .m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W: p.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man charged with murder for starting a fire that killed a Charleston firefighter will go on trial later this summer.

Charles Roberts was arraigned Wednesday on murder and arson charges.

Roberts is accused of setting more than 100 railroad ties on fire under a bridge along Corridor G back in December.

Firefighter Joey King died when he fell off the bridge looking for the fire.

Today Roberts pleaded not guilty and his trial was set for July 11.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 4/3/12 @ 12:05 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man accused of starting a fire that ultimately led to the death of a firefighter in Kanawha County is now facing murder charges.

Police say Charles "Darren" Roberts set more than 100 railroad ties on fire under a bridge along Corridor G in December.

Firefighter Joey King died when he fell off a bridge looking for that fire. Roberts was originally charged with arson, but a grand jury upped that charged to murder when they released their list of indictments.

Joey's sister Arietta King feels that the murder charge is an important step towards justice, given the lingering grief she feels at losing her brother.

"If it wasn't him, it could've been another firefighter, and there are firefighters everywhere," she said. "If this is what gets justice for my brother, it's justice for all firefighters."

But Joey's brother-in-law Danny said he is not sure if the punishment fits the crime.

"I think murder is a little steep," he said. "But I do think he should serve his time."

But prosecutors like Dan Holstein hope the new charge will send a strong message.

"If a death results -- whether it's a firefighter or a policeman responding -- they could be prosecuted for the murder of that individual," he said.



UPDATE 3/31/12 @ 12:15 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An arson that led to the death of a local firefighter is now a murder case.

On Friday, a grand jury indicted Charles "Darren" Roberts on first-degree murder and several arson charges in the death of Alum Creek volunteer firefighter Joey King.

Prosecutors say Roberts set more than 150 railroad ties on fire in December.

King died when he fell off a bridge while looking for that fire.

Roberts is expected to be back in Kanawha County Circuit Court on April 11.



UPDATE 12/16/11 @ 8:05 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man accused of starting a fire that ultimately led to the death of a firefighter was in a courtroom Friday filled with heavy emotion.

Charles "Darren" Roberts is charged with arson for setting more than 150 railroad ties on fire.

Firefighter Joey King died when he fell off a bridge looking for that fire.

Family there came face-to-face with the man they blame for King's death.

Prosecutors called a detective to the stand who says Roberts admitted he did it.

Several witnesses told police Roberts had been drinking and using a cardboard box, a spare tire and a big lighter to set the railroad ties on fire.

"According to a witness, on the way back out of there she yelled at him told him to get back in the car," Detective Samantha Ferrell said. "He said in a little bit all of Sproul Road will be on fire."

It's a crime that for one family has changed their lives.

Arietta King placed flowers on her brother's grave Friday afternoon and is still filled with raw emotion.

"If the fire wasn't set, my brother wouldn't have been looking for it," Arietta King said. "He wouldn't have lost his life. But how it happened, how he fell, nobody knows."

King says losing her brother has been difficult, and while it's hard to see the man who's admitted to starting the fire, it's her brother that gives her strength.

"He was our rock, so now somebody else has to be the rock," King said. "I guess I'm going to be the rock in the family and keep things going."

Now the case moves on to the grand jury and with a promise from prosecutors.

"Firefighters are very important and do an awesome job, and they're here as our community," prosecuting attorney Mary Claire Akers said. "We will take a look at the case and make sure that we do everything we possibly can."

It's a case that leaves one family devastated and Roberts time to think about actions and consequences.

Roberts was a witness who testified in the 2003 Kanawha County sniper case, but prosecutors say these charges will not affect that case.



UPDATE 12/9/11 @ 8:45 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Honored and remembered for his service, Davis Creek Volunteer Firefighter Joey King was laid to rest on Friday.

A heartfelt service took place then at the South Charleston Community Center where hundreds of firefighters, emergency personnel, family and friends paid tribute.

It was a sad and somber day, still less than a week since King's tragic death in the line of duty.

But for those who knew him, they say King would want them to come out of this stronger.

Leaving his mark on the community, Friday was about honoring and mourning a true loss.

"Joey was the type of guy that would give you anything -- the shirt off his back," Poca firefighter Dwayne McClure said. "Seeing him around, driving the truck, pulling the hose -- basically that extra hand and that good warm heart that no one will have."

There were overwhelming signs of support to remember the Davis Creek Volunteer Firefighter.

"Joey was a fine individual, a very caring individual," Glasgow Fire Chief Marty Blankenship said. "He was a very unique kind of guy and he would lift your spirits up."

However, spirits were much more dark and grave after King died on the job when he fell from a bridge.

He's now being remembered for his seven years of service, dedication and always having a positive attitude.

"Joey cared about people, and he would express and want everybody to look out for one another," Keith Mitchell from the Patriot Guard said.

For members of the Davis Creek Volunteer Fire Department, it's a loss for their entire working family.

"It's obviously very tough but with all of the support that everyone has given us we're doing as best as can be expected," Capt. Matthew Lively said.

Firefighters remembered the impact King had made on them with his warm-hearted spirit and willingness to always lend a hand.

Joey's motorcycle led the procession, with his casket sitting high on top of the engine he worked on. His brothers were by his side.

"Its very comforting to know when something bad happens -- we rely on each other," Lavalette volunteer firefighter Lee Dunfee said.

It's a bond to number 1818, a firefighter who wanted nothing more than to help others.

His fellow firefighters say responding to emergencies was in his blood.

King was 61 years old.

He retired from Charleston's Sanitary Department, freeing him up to spend more time with his children and doing what he did best, helping people.



UPDATE 12/7/11 @ 8:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man from Alum Creek, W.Va., man was arrested Wednesday in connection with a fire Saturday that resulted in a fireman's death, according to a news release from the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office.

Charles “Darren” Roberts, 37, of Alum Creek, was arrested by the Kanawha Bureau of Investigation. Roberts was charged with third-degree arson in the fire resulted in Fireman Joey King’s death.

King, a Davis Creek Volunteer firefighter, died after falling from the Steven Wayne Smith Memorial Bridge on U.S. 119 early Sunday morning.

Detectives worked many hours since the incident and developed Roberts as a suspect, according to the release. Roberts told investigators he used a cardboard box to ignite a tire, which in turn caused the railroad ties to also catch fire.

As many as 164 railroad ties had been burned, according to the criminal complaint. A woman who was with Roberts about the time the fire started told investigators he got out of a red Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck and commented he would have "all of Sproul (Road) on fire."

The investigation findings will be sent to the Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to determine if additional charges will be filed.

Roberts bond was set at $250,000 cash.



UPDATE 12/5/11 @ 6:25 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Family and friends of a late firefighter prepare to say their final farewells.

Volunteer firefighter Joey King, 61, died in the line of duty Sunday morning. He was responding to a call about burning railroad ties when he fell from a bridge and died.

Now, volunteers at the Davis Creek-Ruthdale VFD are preparing to bury their brother.

“These men and women are wounded. They're wounded warriors,” Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority Chaplain Mike Jarrett said. “Joey died in the line of duty, and his brothers and sisters need support.”

That’s especially true for the man who may never be able to erase from his mind -- the image of King's death.

“The firefighter with him; I won't mention any names, but he's a tough firefighter. He's a veteran. He's a good firefighter, but it bothers him. It's bothering him, so we want to make sure he's taken care of,” Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman said.

That's where chaplains like Jarrett come in. They've been helping the department cope with the accident. They use what's called critical incident stress management as a type of psychological first aid, but they know their wounds may never truly heal.

“It's not a magic wand that you wave over top of somebody and they get better. They're never gonna forget this,” Jarrett said.

It's still unclear exactly what caused King to fall from the bridge. That remains under investigation.

King's funeral arrangements have been made. Visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Cunningham Parker Johnson Funeral Home in Charleston. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the South Charleston Community Center.

The funeral is open to the public.



UPDATE 12/4/11 @ 9:40 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A firefighter was killed in the line of duty Sunday.

Joey King, 61, was standing on a bridge when he fell off. It happened about 1 a.m. on the Steven Wayne Smith Memorial Bridge in Alum Creek as fire crews were responding to a report of railroad ties on fire. That fire was never found.

“It hasn't sunk in,” King’s sister, Arietta King, said.

Joey King’s family is mourning his death, and so are his fellow firefighters.

“It would be hard to find a person that is as dedicated and loyal to the cause as Joey King. On top of all that, you won't find a better friend anywhere,” Davis Creek VFD Captain Matt Lively said.

He had been with the department for seven years, and was always ready to respond to any emergency and even incidents that weren’t emergencies.

“He was always there when you needed him,” Arietta King said. “You'd call him and he was there. It was always ‘come out here and I’ll work on your car, or I’ll be up there.’”

Joey King loved working on cars. It was a passion of his since he was a little boy growing up on Charleston’s west side.

He retired from the city's sanitary department freeing him up to spend more time with his children and do what he did best; help others.

Arietta remembers him most for his sense of humor and his pranks.

“He likes to play jokes on people,” she said. “He stepped on her toe and whenever she (his niece) opened her mouth to scream, he put the tobacco in her mouth and she'd liked to died.”

It's still unclear how Joey King fell from the bridge. That remains under investigation.

No funeral arrangements have been made yet.



UPDATE 12/4/11 @ 4:05 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Officials have released the name of a firefighter who died after falling from a bridge.

Davis Creek Ruthdale Volunteer Firefighters say Joey King was killed in the accident Sunday morning.

They say King was looking over the Steven Wayne Memorial Bridge in Alum Creek when he fell off and down an embankment.

King served the department for seven years.

The accident is under investigation.



UPDATE 12/4/11 @ 3:25 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Emergency officials have released new details about a deadly accident involving a firefighter in Kanawha County.

Authorities at the scene tell WSAZ.com a Davis Creek Volunteer Firefighter died after falling from the Steven Wayne Smith Memorial Bridge on U.S. 119 early Sunday morning.

The bridge is located in Alum Creek on U.S. 119 just south of Sand Plant Road.

Officials say Davis Creek and Alum Creek firefighters received a call about some railroad ties that caught fire in the area.

Crews could smell the smoke but could not locate the fire when they arrived in the reported area.

The firefighter was looking over the bridge when he fell off and down an embankment. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

They say another Davis Creek Volunteer firefighter witnessed the accident.

Several fire departments as well as WVDOT emergency operations crews are still on the scene.

Crews tell WSAZ.com the body is being recovered at this time.

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department is investigating.

Both lanes are open heading south on U.S. 119, but going north road crews traffic merging onto the shoulder to move around the accident.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/4/11 @ 2:45 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A firefighter has died after falling from a bridge near Alum Creek.

Emergency officials on the scene tell WSAZ.com crews are working to recover the body.

No word on what caused the accident. It happened about 2 a.m. off U.S. 119 near Sand Plant Road in Alum Creek.

One of the northbound lanes of U.S. 119 is shut down at this time.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 12/4/11 @ 2:20 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A firefighter has been seriously hurt in an accident.

911 dispatchers tell WSAZ.com it happened about 2 a.m. near Sand Plant Road in Alum Creek.

Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies have been called to the scene.

No other details are being released at this time.

We have a crew headed to the scene.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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