June 21--An 18-year-old could face 10 years in prison after he entered a guilty plea Thursday to first-degree arson in the burning of a Myersville house after a dispute over drugs.
Joshua Christian Moore, of the 12000 block of Brandenburg Hollow Road in Myersville, was charged with first-degree arson and malicious burning in the Dec. 30 fire that destroyed a family's home on Clark Road.
At an upcoming sentencing hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Jason S. Shoemaker will ask for a 10-year prison sentence, while Moore's attorney will argue for something less.
The arson, which caused $250,000 in damage and appeared to have three points of origin, was all the result of a disputed small-time drug deal, police said.
Moore was involved in a dispute over half an ounce of marijuana with Jacob Bolton, stepson of the burned house's owner, Lance Kirkpatrick, according to charging documents.
Bolton told detectives that he had gone to Moore's house at about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 30 to pick up the marijuana and agreed to pay Moore later.
Bolton told the detective he weighed the marijuana and found it was less than half an ounce. Bolton called Moore on his cellphone and said Moore had "shorted" him and he was not going to pay, according to charging documents.
Moore then threatened Bolton, saying, "Your (mom is) not going to be happy when I set her car on fire," Bolton told the detectives.
Bolton said he "was sure that the person that set his family's house on fire was Joshua Moore," the documents state.
The Frederick County Sheriff's Office was called to Kirkpatrick's house earlier the day of the arson after tires on two vehicles had been slashed. A few hours later, neighbors called 911 to report the house was on fire.
Several witnesses reported seeing a man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and walking near the house with a red gas can, according to charging documents.
Moore was arrested that afternoon at his parents' foreclosed house, where he had been staying without them, Shoemaker said. A red gas can was on the front porch of the house, documents state.
In interviews with detectives, Moore never admitted involvement in the arson, but he made statements that he "got his revenge" and that Bolton's parents would never forgive Bolton for the house burning down, according to charging documents.
Moore entered an Alford plea of guilty Thursday, meaning he did not admit to the act but acknowledged that had the case gone to trial, prosecutors had sufficient evidence to prove the charges against him.
State sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence for Moore between six months in jail and three years in prison.
At a sentencing hearing set for Sept. 10, Shoemaker will seek a 10-year prison sentence on top of the time Moore has already served for the crime. Shoemaker will also ask for an additional 20-year suspended sentence and up to five years of probation.
The state is seeking a sentence above state guidelines because of the harm to the victims and their home, State's Attorney Charlie Smith said in a news release issued Friday.
"Someone could've been seriously injured or possibly killed," Smith said.
Moore's attorney, Richard Bricken, will argue for a sentence shorter than the state's recommendation.
Before sentencing, Moore will undergo a pre-sentence investigation by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Bricken said. The report is an analysis of relevant information concerning the offense and the offender and helps a judge decide sentences.
Shoemaker and Bricken agreed to recommend Moore for placement in the Patuxent Institution Youth Program.
To be eligible for the program, an offender must have an intellectual impairment or emotional imbalance and be likely to respond to developmental programs.
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