A 55-year-old Howard County man charged with setting fire to a Highland house on Halloween amid a dispute over its ownership made an initial appearance yesterday in federal court.
Scott Daniel Wilson, formerly of the 7200 block of Mink Hollow Road, could face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and up to 20 years if convicted, according to the Maryland U.S. attorney's office.
According to an affidavit filed before his arrest Friday, Wilson has a record that includes arson convictions and dates to incidents on the Eastern Shore between 1979 and 1982. He was convicted on eight counts of arson in Caroline County in 1981 and two counts in Talbot County in 1982.
In 1988, Wilson admitted setting a shed on fire in Anne Arundel County but wasn't charged, according to the affidavit, which was submitted by an investigator for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Wilson told investigators that the Oct. 31 fire was an accident. He said he was alone in the house that morning when he awoke from a nap on a couch and saw a "wall of flames in front of him," according to the affidavit. Investigators later concluded that the fire began at several points in the house and was not accidental.
Wilson is involved in a legal fight over ownership of the house with the family of his former wife, Sarah Manning, who died in December 2007, the affidavit said. Wilson made multiple threats to various people that he would burn the house and harm Manning's relatives, according to the affidavit.
Since the Halloween fire, Wilson has been living in a Laurel warehouse, where his recycling business is located. The affidavit said a night watchman at the business found his pickup truck on fire Nov. 28, after a previous dispute with Wilson.
The Oct. 31 fire caused heavy damage to the one-story residence on a rural road near the Montgomery County line. The home was valued at $487,000, according to state records, which listed Manning as the owner.
Upon arriving, firefighters said, they found Wilson sitting in a Jeep Cherokee in the driveway. He tried to drive away and nearly hit a firefighter, the affidavit said.
Yesterday, Wilson was hospitalized because of a herniated disk but was released in time for an appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, at which he was advised of the charges.
Wilson told the judge that his mind was clear despite ingesting a painkiller and a muscle relaxant. He asked that a lawyer be appointed because his business is on "the verge of bankruptcy," and he agreed to detention pending a trial.
Magistrate Judge James K. Bredar set a preliminary hearing for Jan. 27 and ordered a medical evaluation of Wilson.