Former firefighter gets probation for setting fires
Post-Tribune staff report April 10, 2013 2:50PM
Updated: May 12, 2013 2:04PM
Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray sentenced a former firefighter to 10 years on probation for six counts of arson, imposed a $4,000 fine and ordered him to pay $6,000 in restitution.
James Marshall Edwards III, 23, of Crown Point, also will have to perform 500 hours of community service.
Edwards admitted he set fire on Nov. 28, 2007, to an 8,000-square-foot, two-story apartment building at Prairie Pointe Apartments that was under construction at 9134 Hayes St., Merrillville, causing an estimated $1 million loss. The owner of that building has a civil judgment against Edwards.
On Jan. 27, 2008, Edwards set fire to the Croatian Center and Dimitri’s Catering, causing about $1,000 in damage.
On Feb. 4, 2008, Edwards set fire to Grandma’s Country Depot, causing about $500 in damages.
Edwards also admitted to setting fire to three cars at Exhaust Master in Merrillville by igniting the seats with a cigarette lighter.
At the time Edwards set the fires, he was a volunteer with the Independence Hill District of the Merrillville/Ross Township Fire Service. Edwards admitted he set the fires so that he would be called out to fight them.
In his presentence investigation report, Edwards told the probation officer that he hadn’t really thought about the victims and considered their loss only financial.
In court, Edwards said he is sorry for his actions. He had wanted to become a professional firefighter and now is working as a chef. “I realize I damaged them other than financially,” Edwards said.
Deputy prosecutor Aleksandra Dimitrijevic argued for prison time in light of the damage Edwards caused, “physically, emotionally and monetarily,” which she said is immeasurable.
Defense attorney John Cantrell said his client has been in counseling and he has stayed out of trouble after he was freed on bond the day after charges were filed. Cantrell noted his client was only 18 at the time of the crimes.