A man has been charged with first-degree arson in a Elkridge motel fire, which Howard County police said resulted from a domestic dispute.

Police said Barry Lee Murphy, 48, started a fire Monday in the room at the White Elk Motel on U.S. 1 belonging to a female acquaintance, with whom Murphy had been involved in a domestic dispute earlier in the day.

Officers were called to the motel at 8:45 p.m. Monday for a trespassing complaint at Room E. When an officer went to the room, he saw smoke, and firefighters were called to extinguish the fire.

Police said Murphy had removed some of the woman's belongings before starting the fire. She was not in the room at the time, police said.

No one was injured. Investigators have not determined the value of the damaged property.

While county police described Murphy as homeless, electronic court records list an address in the 7900 block of Lansdale Road in Baltimore. He was charged Tuesday with second-degree assault for the dispute on Monday, police said.

Court records show that he has faced charges including assault and theft; in May 2007, he pleaded guilty to trespassing and to second-degree assault in November 2006; in 2004 he was found guilty of fourth-degree burglary.

In addition to arson, Murphy is also charged with first- and second-degree malicious burning, making an arson threat, malicious destruction of property and second-degree burglary stemming from the incident at the motel.

Murphy is in custody at Howard County Detention Center, where his bail is set at $7,500.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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