Former volunteer firefighter sentenced in arson

The Baltimore Sun

A former Ellicott City volunteer firefighter will serve 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to second-degree arson in Howard County Circuit Court.

Joseph Lee Schroen, 21, set a 12-by-14-foot wooden shed on fire in the 2500 block of Melba Road in Ellicott City in the early morning of Aug. 18, destroying the structure and its contents, all valued at more than $10,000, according to a statement of facts read in court by prosecutor Brendan Clary. Schroen lives in that block.

The statement said Schroen, who investigators said appeared to be intoxicated, then approached the shed owner's home and knocked on the door, asking to call 911. During the 911 call, Schroen falsely identified himself as a Baltimore County firefighter, Clary said.

Schroen, who was a probationary member of the Ellicott City Volunteer Fire Department, was released from the department for reasons not specified.

Alcohol treatment

Judge Dennis M. Sweeney sentenced Schroen on Wednesday to 18 months in the county Detention Center, where he must participate in an alcohol treatment program. Schroen also was sentenced to two years' supervised probation after release.

"Those incidents involving fire involved the use of alcohol by Mr. Schroen," his defense attorney, Louis P. Willemin, said in court. "It's important to get his alcohol situation under control."

Investigators said Schroen admitted starting a series of brush fires and burning a mailbox on Melba Road during June and August, according to charging documents.

Investigators said Schroen told them he set the fires because "he wanted to see the firetrucks," the document said.

Clary said that instead of the state prosecuting Schroen on all the fires, prosecutors chose the most severe.

A felony

"What I wanted to do is go for the best and most substantive charge, which was the burning of the shed," Clary said. "The other matters were considered and [were] a factor in his sentencing. What you had was one felony, the shed, and the [other fires] were misdemeanors or county code violations."

In 2002, Schroen pleaded "involved" - the juvenile equivalent of guilty - in Carroll County juvenile court to reckless endangerment for setting a South Carroll High School classmate on fire during a workshop class. The sentence in that case remains sealed.

Also, according to Carroll County District Court records, Schroen was sentenced in April of this year to a year of probation for false imprisonment of his former girlfriend.

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