Nation

Ex-firefighter, girlfriend charged in Va. arsons

ACCOMAC, Va. — A former volunteer firefighter and his girlfriend were arrested Tuesday and are suspected of setting a majority of the 70 arsons on Virginia’s Eastern Shore over the past five months.

Charles R. Smith III, who went by the alias Charles Applegate when he served as captain of the Tasley Volunteer Fire Department several years ago, and his girlfriend, Tonya S. Bundick, were arrested early Tuesday, shortly after an abandoned residence was set ablaze.

Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman, said the pair are believed to be responsible for most of the fires set since November. Others, Geller said, appear to have been set by someone else.

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‘‘We are confident that Bundick and Smith are responsible for the majority of the fires set,’’ Geller said.

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Bundick, 40, and Smith, 38, were each charged with one count of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson for Monday night’s blaze, and Geller said more charges should be filed soon. Both Bundick and Smith are being held in Accomack County Jail without bond, pending court appearances Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether they had attorneys.

‘‘This is really just the beginning of the end,’’ Geller said, adding that the investigation into the fires continues.

Court records show that police observed the fire being set just before midnight Monday. The criminal complaint says authorities saw a person get dropped off, set fire to the abandoned residence, then get picked up by the same vehicle. Authorities stopped the vehicle, and court records show Bundick was driving.

Geller refused to say whether the duo had confessed to setting the fires.

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All of the arsons were set in Accomack County, which borders Maryland.

Associated Press