SIDNEY — A trial started and ended Tuesday in the Shelby County Court of Common Pleas.
Ralph Chadwell Jr. had been charged with one count of aggravated arson, a second degree felony, and a jury had convened to hear his case. The charge stemmed from the March 4 fire that took place at his home, 899 Hayes St., in Sidney.
Sidney Fire & Emergency Services were dispatched at 8:08 a.m. on the morning of the fire. Damage was estimated at $40,000 to the structure and $25,000 to contents. Firefighters were on the scene for over three hours to control and extinguish the fire.
When the trial resumed for the afternoon on Tuesday, two neighbors, and someone who was driving by at the time of the fire, gave their statements to the jury.
Della Mees, 911 Hayes St., who lived across the street diagonally from Chadwell, testified about what she saw the morning of the fire. In brief, she said she saw Chadwell’s vehicle backed up to the porch and then saw him leave in a hurry. She also stated she saw one of his dogs running down the street after he left. She then said a short time later she saw smoke coming out of the house and called 911.
Rodney Woodell, 915 Hayes St., who lived directly across the street from Chadwell, testified about what he saw the morning of the fire as well. In brief, he said he saw Chadwell’s vehicle in his driveway, then didn’t notice anything else until he was woken up by a phone call to tell him about the fire across the street from him. He noted he saw a truck pull into the yard when he looked out his door that morning.
Chris Gordon, 551 Culvert St., who was driving on Hayes Street during the fire testified about what he saw. Gordon said he saw smoke coming out of the house and pulled over. He said he ran up to the house and tried to open the door and yelled to see if anyone was inside. He kicked down the door and didn’t find anyone in the home. He said two dogs were inside and were afraid to come out.
A recess was then called by the judge so the next witness, Annette Chadwell, the defendants wife, could be located in the court house.
At this time, discussion took place between Judge James Stevenson, Shelby County Prosecutor Tim Sell, and Chadwell’s attorney, Andrew Venters.
A plea agreement was reached and Chadwell plead guilty to the lesser charge of one count of attempted vandalism, a first degree misdemeanor.
Sell said in his statement to the judge that the agreement was reached because of changes in witness behavior.
A reduction in bond was considered. Chadwell had been incarcerated since June on the original charge in the Shelby County Jail. The judge ordered he be released on his own recognizance. He was also asked not to contact the witnesses in the case.
Chadwell will be sentenced on Nov. 24 at 2 p.m.
The jury was dismissed and thanked for their patience by Stevenson, Sell and Venters.
Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; follow on Twitter @SDNAlexandraN