By Kathi Bliss
Three former volunteer firefighters who were charged with Arson of a Habitation earlier this year have entered into plea agreements, the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office reported on Monday.
Christopher Kierych, Robert Hitchcock and Richard Hitchcock have each pled guilty to a second-degree felony charge of Arson of a Structure, district attorney Chris Schneider said.
“Because the buildings were not inhabited, the charge was changed from Arson of a Habitation,” he said.
As a function of the plea agreement, the trio will each serve 10 years deferred adjudication probation, and be jointly liable for at least $42,000 in restitution to the owners of the buildings burned in a series of fires this summer.
Under deferred adjudication probation, the trio could be subject to spending time in jail if they fail to comply with the terms of their 10-year probation period. However, if they comply with all of their probation requirements, their criminal records will not show the arson charges.
The investigation of a series of suspicious fires led officials to the trio in July. Officers from the Maxwell Volunteer Fire Department expressed concern that the trio arrived at certain fire scenes before the fire trucks.
According to Schneider, the men still have to appear before a judge to be sentenced, at which point the judge may either approve the agreement or “break the plea” and assign a sentence the judge believes to be more appropriate to the crimes.
The Hitchcock’s attorney, Eddie Escobar, declined to comment on the case. Kierych’s attorney, Bart Denum, could not be reached for comment.