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Husband of woman who died in Hampstead fire charged with her killing, arson

The husband of a woman who died in a house fire in Hampstead last month was arrested Friday and charged with setting the fire that killed her.

Investigators determined that multiple fires were set within the residence, and these fires prevented Donna Marie Schech from escaping the blaze. Donna Schech died of heat- and smoke-related injuries in the fire, according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. She was 55.

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Robert Charles Schech Sr., 69, is facing charges of first- and second-degree murder, first-degree arson, malicious burning and fraud. Schech was being held without bail at the Carroll County Detention Center as of 10 p.m. Friday.

Robert Charles Schech Sr. was arrested Dec. 16 and charged with setting the fire that killed his wife. <a href="http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/news/crime/ph-cc-schech-arson-murder-20161216-story.html" target="_blank">Full story here</a>.
Robert Charles Schech Sr. was arrested Dec. 16 and charged with setting the fire that killed his wife. Full story here. (Submitted photo / HANDOUT)

The fire began at about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 13, at the Schech house in the 2600 block of Hoffman Mill Road. It took firefighters about a half-hour to control the fire once they arrived on the scene.

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Robert Schech flagged down a passer-by who called 911 and he was transported to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center, where he was treated for injuries suffered in the fire and released.

35 firefighters from several fire companies responded to a fire in the 2600 block of Hoffman Mill Road around 1:29 a.m. Sunday.

The Sheriff's Office and the Office of the State Fire Marshal conducted a joint investigation to determine the cause of the fire and ultimately bring charges.

"Multiple agencies, including detectives in my office, conducted a thorough investigation," Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said.

In 2007, Robert Schech was charged with second-degree assault, his only previous brush with the law in Maryland, according to the state's electronic case search files. He was acquitted of that charge when Donna Schech invoked her marital right not to testify against him, according to the records. The circumstances of that case were not immediately available Friday.

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Donna Schech's death is the second this year to be charged as a homicide in Carroll County. There were none in 2015, one in 2014 and two in 2013.

DeWees said it's unusual to have any first-degree murder charges in the county.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is continuing to investigate a Hampstead fire that left one dead over the weekend.

"Unfortunately, there have been a couple of incidents … domestically related [this year]," DeWees said, adding that murders are usually not random.

In August, two men were charged with murder in the death of 35-year-old Kandi Lynn Gerber, of New Windsor.

Bret Michael Wheeler, 25, of the 2000 block of Dennings Road in New Windsor, and Robert Theodore Bosley, 38, an inmate at the Carroll County Detention Center who was on work release, were each charged with first-degree murder in Gerber's death. Gerber and Wheeler were dating and living at the Dennings Road address.



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