Authorities seized a plastic gas can from the home of a former firefighter who confessed to setting the most recent of a string of arsons on Virginia's Eastern Shore with his girlfriend, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Authorities seized a plastic gas can from the home of a former firefighter who confessed to setting the most recent of a string of arsons on Virginia’s Eastern Shore with his girlfriend, according to court documents released Wednesday.
A Wednesday arraignment for Charles R. Smith III was postponed, but his girlfriend, Tonya Bundick, appeared in court and was assigned a court-appointed attorney. She is due back in court May 6. Smith’s attorney was not available, and his office said he would not comment.
Smith and Bundick were charged in only one of the fires, though state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said they are believed to be responsible for most of the 77 fires set since November. Police have not discussed a motive.
All the fires were set in or near abandoned or unoccupied commercial and residential buildings, and no injuries were reported.
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Court records show that Smith in recent years had owned a business called Charlie’s Autobody Paint & Body Work. According to county records, Smith started the business in 2008 working out of his stepfather George Applegate’s automotive shop, and later moved.
He failed to pay this year’s $50 business license fee that was due March 1, according to county officials.
Smith – who also goes by Charles Applegate – has a criminal record that includes 31 felony convictions. Most of those stem from a series of forgeries in 1994. Smith, 38, served close to a year in prison for those convictions, according to the Department of Corrections.
In 1998, he pleaded guilty to breaking into two homes with another man and stealing tools, electronic equipment and guns, according to the documents. He wrote in his confession that they sold most of those items to buy crack.
Court documents list other items seized from the couple’s home, including boots, coveralls and two laptop computers.
At Smith’s body shop, which sits about 100 yards from the volunteer fire department where he once served as a captain, Bundick ran a small clothing store called “A Tiny Taste of Toot.” Both businesses were closed Wednesday.
The county has no records indicating Bundick held a business license and court records said Bundick has been unemployed since December 2011. Those records also said she received financial support because of one of her two sons’ unidentified disability, as well as support from her boyfriend.
Law enforcement officials have said the two are boyfriend and girlfriend, but Bundick’s Facebook page and an online wedding registry indicate that the two were engaged.
Court records indicate that Smith is a native of the Eastern Shore of Virginia who has a 9th grade education and a GED. Court records say all of his family lives in the area and that he has a pending child support court date in Accomack County.
Court records said Bundick, 40, had spent 40 years in the community, but her Facebook page also says she is a 1991 graduate of Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Ariz. In an October 2012 post, Bundick wrote `some people think i have it all’ because she owns her house, has two vehicles, two businesses, animals, two children and a `wonderful man,’ among other things.
Bundick noted in a post that she’s `not a fighter but will throw down’ and that she’s `a peacemaker but can go to war.’
Lois Gomez, who lived next door to Bundick and Smith, said Bundick’s mother had lived in the home but that Bundick and her two sons moved in after the mother died about five years ago. Gomez said she didn’t get along with the couple, but she didn’t suspect them when her detached garage was torched in December, causing several thousand dollars’ worth of damage.
Looking back on it now, she remembers hearing Smith’s truck leave and return home late at night.
Gomez said the family kept to themselves, but they seemed to enjoy spending time together. Sometimes, they’d gather together around a fire at night, she said.
“Sometimes in the evening they’d have a fire burning in a barrel, with leaves or trash or something, and they’d just be sitting there like a normal family,” she said. “I just cannot comprehend why she’d do that. I mean, she had so much going for her.”
Authorities removed several animals from the home, including goats and pigs.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis