Employee Charged with Setting Factory Fire in Kentucky

An employee of Mid-South Electronics in Annville was arrested and charged yesterday with setting the fire that destroyed most of the company's main plant in January.

Kentucky State Police said Leroy Hubbard, 32, of Manchester, was charged with first-degree arson and first-degree wanton endangerment.

He was arrested without incident at Mid-South Electronics and was being held in the Jackson County Jail, state police said.

Hubbard will be arraigned at 9 a.m. today before Judge Cletus Maricle in Jackson Circuit Court in McKee, said Gary Gregory of Manchester, the commonwealth's attorney for Clay, Jackson and Leslie counties.

Gregory said the first-degree arson charge is a class A felony that, on conviction, carries a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.

Conviction on first-degree wanton endangerment, also a felony, carries a penalty of one to five years, Gregory said.

Hubbard had worked at Mid-South as a regular employee for a few months and before that through a temporary employment service, said Mark Weaver, director of human resources for the parent corporation, Mid-South Industries in Gadsden, Ala.

When the late-night fire occurred Jan. 15 in the Jackson County Regional Industrial Park, 21 people were working in the plant but none was injured, the company said.

State police said the fire caused more than $50 million in damage and lost revenue.

Mid-South assembles circuit boards and produces plastic-injection molding used in ice and water dispensers for refrigerators. Frigidaire is the biggest customer among several appliance manufacturers.

Since the fire, Mid-South has returned to full production and nearly full employment of about 700 workers, said Harold Weaver, chairman and CEO of Mid-South Industries.

Mid-South is hiring workers for all shifts because sales are up and business is strong, Mark Weaver said.

Mid-South, the largest employer in its area, is using three buildings in the Jackson County industrial park and a converted warehouse in Manchester.

Weaver said the company is still tearing down remains from the fire, and plans for rebuilding the main plant have not been drawn up yet.

The state police said officers conducted the investigation jointly with the state fire marshal's office and the federal department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Distributed by the Associated Press