UPDATE: Arson Case Against Firefighter and Felon Waived to Grand Jury

By: Josh McComas; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Josh McComas; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 8/27/12
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two men accused of starting a fire at an abandoned home in Huntington were back in court Monday.

Mark Sowards, 38, of Huntington, and Brian Johnson, 35, of Proctorville, Ohio, are both charged with first-degree arson.

Investigators say the two started a fire on August 17 at a home near the intersection of 21st Street and 11th Avenue.

During their preliminary hearing Monday, both waived to the grand jury.

Their bonds were also reduced from $25,000 to $20,000 a piece. Sowards was able to make bond. Johnson is still in jail.

Huntington Police say Sowards is a former volunteer firefighter at the Central Township Joint Fire District in London, Ohio. Officials say he left the department more than two years ago.

Detective Chris Sperry tells WSAZ.com that Johnson is a convicted felon and was recently released from prison after serving time for aggravated burglary.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



ORIGINAL STORY 8/17/12
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A convicted felon and a volunteer firefighter are being charged with arson in connection with a fire overnight in Huntington.

Crews were called out shortly after 12:30 a.m. Friday to an abandoned house near the intersection of 21st Street and 11th Avenue.

When firefighters got there, flames were shooting from the home.

According to court documents, Mark Sowards, 38, of Huntington, and Brian Johnson, 35, of Proctorville, Ohio, are both being charged with first-degree arson.

Sowards was seen by a witness leaving the scene just before the fire was reported. According to the criminal complaint, the witness saw Sowards take off a hooded sweatshirt and returning to the fire scene, where he was stopped by police officers.

The sweatshirt was found by officers, and a K-9 officer followed the scent of the sweatshirt directly to Sowards while he was speaking with officers.

According to Huntington Police Detective Chris Sperry, Sowards is a former volunteer firefighter at the Central Township Joint Fire District in London, Ohio.

Johnson was also spotted by a witness taking off a hooded sweatshirt and leaving the fire scene just before the fire was reported. According to the criminal complaint, Johnson’s sweatshirt was recovered and a K-9 track also lead from the sweatshirt directly to Johnson while he was talking to officers.

Johnson is a convicted felon and was recently released from prison after serving time for aggravated burglary, Sperry said.

Both men are being held in the Western Regional Jail, and bail has been set at $25,000 each.

Sowards and Johnson are scheduled to be in court at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 27.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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