A Norwalk man accused of committing arson in Willard will have his case presented to a Huron County grand jury for possible indictment.
Samuel E. Sherck, 58, of 520 Milan Ave., Lot 34, appeared in Norwalk Municipal Court on Tuesday and waived his right to have prosecutors present evidence. Judge Eric Weisenburger ruled there was probable cause a crime was committed and transferred the case to Huron County Common Pleas Court.
Sherck is charged with arson in connection with a March 30 incident at 6 B&O Pike in Willard. If convicted of the fourth-degree felony, he faces six to 18 months behind bars.
The arson case was part of a joint investigation by the Willard fire and police departments and Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office.
"The fire marshal conducted the majority of the investigation," police Chief Mark Holden said.
A fire marshal's investigator interviewed Sherck at the fire station May 31. Holden said after the investigator called police to say the suspect reportedly confessed, officers had him arrested.
Sherck was transported to the Huron County Jail. He was released two days later after posting a $15,000 bond.
"This fire was ruled as incendiary (arson)," said Michael Duchesne, spokesman for the fire marshal's office. "(I) cannot comment on the details of the investigation at this time."
The house at 6 B&O Pike in Willard is destroyed.
"We're working on getting it razed now," fire Chief Joe Reiderman said, citing recent feedback from the insurance company.
Willard Fire & Rescue was dispatched at 6:12 p.m. March 30 and arrived six minutes later. Reiderman said the first crew wasn't able to enter the home because the fire was so involved.
"We went right into defensive mode; it was that involved," he added. "It was completely defensive."
Twenty-one firefighters were on the scene in three engines, a ladder truck and several support vehicles. Three ambulances also responded.
"We got a crew down there right away," Reiderman said. "We had three water strains going."
Firefighters had the blaze under control after about one hour and 15 minutes.
"We also had downed electrical wires that were arcing, so we had to be very cautious of that," Reiderman said. "The big thing at that point was to minimize the losses. ... We were able to save a garage located far enough away so that it wasn't a real threat."
The chief declined to say if anything seemed suspicious initially at the scene and referred such questions to the fire marshal's office.
"There were some things that didn't add up for us," Reiderman said.
Two firefighters maintained the scene until a fire marshal's investigator arrived at the house the morning of March 31.
"We assisted them and did a joint investigation," Reiderman said.
The chief declined to provide the homeowners' names, but said they are local residents who had been living at the house "two to three years at the most."
"They haven't lived there that long," he added. "The owners were in the process of moving out. The house was for sale. ... It was an older, two-story home."
Holden was asked about law enforcement's previous contact with Sherck.
On Oct. 31, 2013, Sherck reported the theft of his pickup truck, which police have been unable to recover. Holden said the suspect also has reported "some very large burglaries, where insurance companies paid out a lot of money."
"Which calls in the validity of those incidents," the police chief added.