Former fire chief enters guilty plea
BUCKHANNON — The former chief of the Ellamore Volunteer Fire Department has pleaded guilty to destruction of property and the felony arson charge against him has been dismissed.
Jamie L. Pugh, 44, was indicted in January 2020 on one count of first degree arson, stemming from an incident in March 2019.
Pugh had been chief of the Ellamore VFD for seven years before he was initially charged in the incident. He went on voluntary leave after he was indicted for arson.
On July 14 a new criminal complaint was filed in Upshur County Magistrate Court charging Pugh with destruction of property. On July 15, Pugh pleaded guilty to the new charge and was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and fined $500.
On Monday the arson charge was dropped in Upshur County Circuit Court.
Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Hinkle was quoted as saying there were problems with the investigation of the incident that would make it difficult to get a conviction on the arson charge. The trial was scheduled to begin tomorrow.
Hinkle said part of the plea agreement states that Pugh is not allowed to respond to emergency calls.
According to the criminal complaint filed by Senior Natural Resources Police Officer T.R. Collins of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, on March 30, 2019, Pugh allegedly set fire to a cabin located on Little Sand Run Road that belonged to Ralph Joseph Parsons.
The report states that at approximately 2:01 p.m., Pugh drove up and down the road in his Dodge Durango, then stopped and exited his vehicle.
“Approximately 16 seconds later, smoke started from the spot (where) he stopped and exited his vehicle,” Collins wrote in the complaint, noting that a homeowner’s video recorded the incident.
Later, Pugh reportedly told officers he had seen the homeowner’s video and that his vehicle was in it, adding that he was having vehicle problems that caused the fire.
According to Collins, Pugh also stated that he turned around because there were kids playing by the abandoned, burning house and because of “a loud boom.”
The report states that while being questioned on Nov. 11, Pugh admitted to lying about the vehicle causing the fire, the kids playing and the loud boom.
The plea agreement states that Pugh can no longer be a member of any fire department, or the agreement would be voided and the arson charge could be presented again.