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Arsonist avoids jail time

Cary Ashby • Sep 1, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway told the convicted arsonist he hopes his time at Harmony House will help him with his psychological counseling, eventual employment and living on his own.

Former Plymouth and Willard resident Christopher A. Barber, 19, who was sentenced Wednesday, will have to register as an arsonist with the state for his lifetime. He pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree felony July 14.

Barber's mother has been visiting her son regularly at the Huron County Jail during the 368 days he was there. She said she's seen a positive difference, especially since her son has been undergoing counseling and taking his medication.

"I've been trying to get him help since the fourth grade," she said. "I hated to see him in the jail that long."

Barber will be transferred from the jail to Harmony House, a homeless shelter in Richland County. He will remain there until his probation officer says otherwise.

The defendant was placed on five years of probation Wednesday. Conway told Barber he hopes the extra time will help him pay $7,895 in restitution, which includes payments to the male victim and Willard Fire & Rescue. The judge also said the defendant needs to continue with his counseling and taking his medication.

"My hope is you will be employable," Conway added.

"The folks at Christie Lane have been working with Mr. Barber," said the judge, who noted Barber has progressed to the point he isn't eligible for some of the services Christie Lane provides.

In early June, Conway ruled Barber wasn't allowed to enter a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." By that time, the defendant had undergone two competency evaluations.

Barber isn't allowed to have any contact or association with the victim. The defendant's probation officer has the discretion of saying when, or if, Barber would serve a 30-day jail sentence. The officer also could ask Conway to waive the term if Barber does well on community control. If he violates his probation, he faces 18 months in prison.

Nobody was injured in the June 25, 2013 blaze in Willard, but a cat died. The apartment fire on Rae Court caused about $25,000 worth of damage. The Willard Police Department handled the investigation.

Barber intentionally set fire to a balled-up piece of paper and put it under a mattress, attorneys have said. He later admitted to the arson to an investigator with state fire marshal's office.

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