Lockhart men face felony arson charges
By LPR Staff
The Caldwell County Fire Marshal”s investigation of three suspicious structure fires in the Maxwell area led to three arrests last week.
Fire marshal Jeff Wright filed charges against three Lockhart men, all 19, last week, in connection with a series of suspicious fires last month. The three men, twins Robert and Richard
Hitchcock and Christopher Kierych, were arrested last week and held in the Caldwell County Jail, with bail set at $50,000 each. According to District Attorney Chris Schneider, the charges are first-degree felonies, punishable by a jail term of 5-99 years or life in prison, if the men are indicted and found guilty.
The suspects were all probationary members of the Maxwell Volunteer Fire Department, having joined less than six months ago, said Maxwell VFD Chief LeClerc in a press conference on Saturday. They have been suspended from service with the Maxwell VFD.
“In the 40 years that this department has existed, this is the first time a charge as serious as this was placed on some of its firefighters,” LeClerc said. “I ensure you as chief of this department this will not happen again.”
LeClerc insisted that in the future, the Maxwell VFD will ask all volunteer applicants for criminal background checks, a procedure he had been planning to implement before this incident.
“This is such a shock,” he said. “We”re all just… shocked. We don”t understand this, but we want to make sure that people know that this is an isolated incident. This department and members take a lot of pried in their community, and that is why they are with the department.”
The Maxwell VFD reported to Wright”s office last month, after the three suspects arrived on the scene of a fire in an abandoned structure before the fire trucks arrived.
“The story they were giving us as to how they got there so quickly didn”t really jell, so we started looking a little more closely,” LeClerc said. After the trio arrived early at a second structure fire, LeClerc”s department made the report to Wright.
“We didn”t want to believe it, but we knew we had to look at it,” he said. “Some of the things they were saying and doing just didn”t make sense.”
Rumors abound throughout Caldwell County that the suspects may have been involved in other unsolved structure fires. It has also been suggested that members of other departments might have been in league with the trio setting the fires.
However, neither Wright nor LeClerc would comment on the rumors, as the investigation is still ongoing.
Wright has stated that a number of citizens have come forward with information valuable to the investigation and the arrests, but asks that anyone else with information regarding suspicious fires contact his office at (512) 398-1822.