By BRIAN BOHNERT
Two of the three suspects charged in a fatal house fire on South Poplar Street last month said they were not in sound mental states when they committed the criminal act.
Shey L. Weiker, 31, and Charles V. Schaeffer, 44, both of 151 Taft Blvd., each entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday morning for their roles in a May 26 arson that killed two and injured one in the 600-block of South Poplar Street.
The two, along with Timothy D. Hall, 20, 126 Findlay St., were indicted out of Seneca County Common Pleas Court last week on charges stemming from the Memorial Day blaze that took the lives of Daniel Marker Jr., 48, and Tara Lynn Vance, 44, and injured Dana Weatherall, 49, at 614 S. Poplar St.
Weiker is charged with aggravated arson, a first-degree felony; aggravated murder, a special felony; murder, a special felony; and attempted murder, a first-degree felony. If convicted, she could face the death penalty.
Weiker allegedly threw a lit railroad flare toward the porch of the residence because Marker, who was a registered sex offender, had supposedly committed a sex crime against her son, court documents state.
Schaeffer, who allegedly instructed Weiker how to ignite the flare, is charged with complicity to aggravated arson, a first-degree felony; complicity to aggravated murder, a special felony; complicity to murder, a special felony; and complicity to attempted murder, a first-degree felony. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to an assistant prosecutor with the Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office, defendants who enter an insanity plea acknowledge committing the criminal act, but maintain they were in a situation where “they could not appreciate what they were doing or could not appreciate the wrongfulness of the act.”
“A lot of times, you’ll see a defendant enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and, if it is referred to a psychologist and found that he or she was not insane, the defendant would then switch it to a standard not guilty plea,” said the prosecutor, who wished to remain anonymous.
A representative with Seneca County Judge Michael P. Kelbley’s office said Wednesday that a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation will be scheduled to determine if Weiker does indeed suffer from mental illness.
According to Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court records, Weiker has a list of prior criminal and traffic offenses dating back to 2001 with none resulting in a similar plea.
During Schaeffer’s hearing, the court ordered he be evaluated for competency at a treatment facility in Toledo.
Hall, who was arraigned during his bond hearing Tuesday, entered a plea of not guilty to charges of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and two counts of obstructing justice, a third degree felony. According to court records, he allegedly disposed of the flare’s strike cap by throwing it into the sewer system in the 100-block of Taft Boulevard.
If convicted, Hall faces a maximum prison term of nine years.
Kelbley set bond Monday at $2 million with 10 percent allowed for both Weiker and Schaeffer, and $50,000 with 10 percent allowed for Hall, according to Seneca County Common Pleas Court records.
Bonds for Weiker and Schaeffer remained the same, while Kelbley greatly reduced Hall’s during Monday’s hearing. Hall’s bond was previously set at $1.5 million.
The initial fire call came in via 911 at 3:05 a.m. May 26 advising of people trapped inside the home, said Interim Fire Chief Warren Digby in a previous interview with the Review Times.
The three suspects were taken into custody the afternoon of the fire after officers executed a search at 151 Taft Blvd., at which time they also collected various items as evidence.
All three are currently being held in Seneca County Jail in Tiffin.
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