Southeast Missouri man charged with burning down several homes

Friday, April 8, 2011

VAN BUREN, Mo. -- An Ellsinore, Mo., man has been charged with burning multiple Ellsinore homes in 2010 and 2011, including the modular home of former Carter County Sheriff Tommy Adams.

Gary W. Bender, 45, was charged Monday with four felony counts of second-degree arson by Carter County Prosecuting Attorney Rocky Kingree.

Bender, who was arrested Monday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, remains in the Butler County Justice Center, where he also is being held on two felony charges of distribution of methamphetamine. His bonds total $350,000.

The arson charges against Bender stem from an investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

In his probable cause affidavit, Jason Dunn, an investigator with the Fire Marshal's Office, said he was requested by the Carter County Sheriff's Department to assist in investigating a fire at Ellsinore on Jan. 28.

Upon his arrival, Dunn said, he saw three, single family structures which had been "consumed by fire."

Dunn described the structures as being constructed of wood and covered in vinyl siding.

"The exterior examination revealed extensive fire damage throughout the structures," Dunn explained. "The exterior walls on all sides of each structure had been consumed by fire, with debris falling to the interior and exterior.

"The roof had been consumed on all three structures."

Dunn said his interior examination was limited due to the amount of damage.

The interior walls, he said, had been consumed by fire.

"The electric was not in service at the time of the fire," said Dunn, who ruled out an electrical cause starting the fire.

Dunn said he was unable to determine the origin of the fire due to the "extensive amount" of damage to the structures.

As part of his investigation, Dunn spoke with the owner of the structures, identified as Raymond Mc-Garrity.

"McGarrity stated that he had purchased the involved structures about a month prior to the fire," Dunn said. "He stated that the structures were being stored … until they were ready to be located at their permanent locations.

"McGarrity stated he had several people upset with him due to several different reasons. [He] stated this had been going on for some time now."

On Saturday, Dunn said, he spoke with Bender at the Highway Patrol zone office, outside of Van Buren.

After being told of his rights, "Bender stated he was willing to provide information on his involvement with four separate fires located in Ellsinore, Mo.," Dunn said.

During the interview, Bender provided what Dunn described as specific information about "his involvement on a fire that had occurred on" Jan. 16, 2010, involving property belonging to Adams on U.S. 60 at Ellsinore. Adams has since resigned as sheriff and is in jail charged with distributing methamphetamine to a confidential informant.

Dunn said Bender gave specific information on how and where he set the fire in Adams' modular home.

"Bender stated the second fire occurred in a single family residence located at County Road 327," Dunn explained. "Bender gave specific information on how and where the fire was set at this location."

Bender, according to Dunn, reported no one was inside the structure at the time "when [he] set the fire in the living room area of the structure. [He] gave specific details [on] how he set this fire."

Dunn said the fire had occurred on Feb. 6, 2010. Court documents show it was owned by Ben and Michelle Turner.

Bender reported to Dunn that the third fire involved a single family structure, located four miles west of Ellsinore on U.S. 60, belonging to Donnie Kearbey. It occurred on Dec. 18.

"Bender stated he set the fire in the bedroom area of the structure and gave specific details on how the fire was set," Dunn said.

The fourth fire, according to Dunn, occurred on Jan. 16 and involved the three, single family structures reportedly owned by McGarrity.

"Bender gave specific details on how he set the fire," Dunn said. "He stated he set the fire by means of the sofa coach located in the living room area of the structure."

As part of his investigation, Dunn said, he reviewed the fire reports from the respective fire departments. Two of the fires, he said, had been investigated by the Missouri State Division of Fire Safety.

The drug charges Bender is facing stem from an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He is accused of distributing methamphetamine to a confidential informant and an undercover officer.

Pertinent address:

Van Buren, MO

Ellsinore, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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