TOLEDO — Two individuals, including a former firefighter, pleaded not guilty Monday to arsons that have plagued Cumberland County since 2009.
Levi Barnes, 21, of Greenup, and Paul McCormick, 23, of Toledo, were arrested Feb. 26 for more than 30 suspicious fires, primarily located in Greenup. Barnes is charged with 60 counts of arson, residential arson and residential burglary, while McCormick is charged with 19 counts of arson, residential arson and residential burglary.
During a preliminary hearing in Cumberland County Circuit Court Monday, Cumberland County State’s Attorney John Braden called Jeff Pride, an arson investigator with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, as the sole witness. Pride said after investigating many of the suspicious cases, he ruled 34 of the fires as incendiary with an additional 17 fires being ruled as having an undetermined cause by his office. He said in most of the cases crime scene investigators were unable to determine an ignition source.
Pride told the court Barnes became a suspect in the case after comparing the start times of the fire to when Barnes would arrive at the Greenup Fire House, as well as comparing Barnes’ shift changes and lunch breaks, during which one fire did occur. A search warrant was obtained in the fall of 2012 and a tracker was placed on Barnes’ car, which allowed investigators to identify Barnes’ vehicle near the scene of one of the fires.
Barnes was then arrested on Feb. 26 and transported to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department. There, Pride said Barnes admitted to many of the fires and implicated McCormick in eight of the fires. McCormick was arrested later that day.
Robert Dunst, serving as Barnes’ attorney, cross-examined Pride for about 40 minutes, asking repeatedly about several abandoned homes in Greenup and residency in those properties. He also questioned Pride about the fires on Nov. 12 and Dec. 23, 2011. Both took place at 504 E. Elizabeth St. in Greenup and although the cause of the first fire was undetermined, the cause of the second fire was ruled incendiary.
Pride said the first fire was ruled as undetermined because the utility power supply to the home was still turned on and could have facilitated the fire. However, he said the power supply was disconnected when the second fire occurred on Dec. 23 and would no longer have been a factor.
Judge Millard Everhart ruled the state had probable cause to link Barnes and McCormick to the fires. Both Barnes and McCormick entered a plea of not guilty and asked for a jury trial.
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or firstname.lastname@example.org.