A federal jury has convicted an Adair County man of deliberately setting a blaze that led to the death of a firefighter.
Steve Allen “Boo” Pritchard, 44, was charged with torching his house in order to collect on a $50,000 renter’s insurance policy.
The jury in Bowling Green convicted him on a charge of arson that caused a death and mail fraud.
The fire happened June 30, 2011, at the rented home in Columbia that Pritchard shared with his then-girlfriend, Brandi Waggener — later referred to as Brandi Pritchard in court documents — who was charged with him.
When Steve Pritchard learned Waggener had taken out renter’s insurance, he suggested they burn the house to collect, according to a court document.
In pleading guilty last year, Waggener said that before the fire, Steve Pritchard sent her two children from a prior marriage and the family dog to stay with friends.
Pritchard then set the house on fire and drove Waggener to a job she had in Somerset at the time, she said in her plea deal.
When the Columbia Fire Department responded to fight the blaze, Assistant Chief Charles Sparks had a heart attack while inside the house.
He died eight days later.
Waggener — with Pritchard’s help — filed a claim with Grange Insurance after the fire, listing items she and Pritchard didn’t actually own and inflating the value of others, she said in her plea.
The company paid the claim.
Pritchard claimed at his trial that he was in Louisville making a delivery for his employer when the fire happened, but location data from his cell phone that the FBI obtained showed otherwise, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman.
In addition, prosecutors presented evidence from several family members and friends of Waggener who said Pritchard had bragged about setting the fire, Coleman said in a release.
Prosecutors also introduced evidence that Pritchard was involved in four previous fires to collect insurance, Coleman said.
Coleman called firefighters unsung heroes.
“Greed-fueled arson that endangers those public servants will be appropriately dealt with by the Department of Justice,” Coleman said.
U.S. District Judge Greg N. Stivers ordered Pritchard taken into custody after the jury’s verdict on Thursday.
Pritchard is to be sentenced in October. He faces a minimum of seven years in prison and a maximum of life.
Waggener has not been sentenced.