A Shrewsbury Township man who police said torched a Hopewell Township barn more than two years ago has avoided prison.
Dion Eugene Tuxford, 53, of Windy Hill Road, must pay $10,000 in restitution and spend five years on probation after pleading no contest to the third-degree felonies of risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief.
As part of the plea agreement, charges of arson and reckless endangerment were dropped, senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake confirmed.
Defendants who plead no contest aren't admitting guilt. Rather, they are saying they won't contest the charges against them. Otherwise, a no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.
Blake called it an equitable resolution and said both state police and the alleged victim were in agreement with the deal.
Defense expert: Had the case gone to trial, a defense expert was expected to challenge a fire-marshal ruling that the fire was arson, Blake said.
Public defender Ron Jackson Jr. declined comment.
State police said Tuxford set fire to a barn in the 13000 block of Wolfe Road about 1:30 a.m. July 30, 2011.
According to court documents, Tuxford went to
the property and got into an argument with Thomas Waltemyer, who lives there. Waltemyer pushed Tuxford, who ended up falling over a fence, police said.
Police alleged Tuxford returned the next morning, doused the barn with gasoline and torched it.
Barn destroyed: No one was hurt, but the barn and its contents were destroyed, according to police, who set an initial damage estimate at $100,000.
Blake said that figure has been revised.
"Upon further investigation ... it appears the original estimate was not the true amount of the loss," he said, adding it's common for damage estimates to be revised as cases are reviewed.
The barn was 100 years old, and there wasn't a comprehensive inventory list of the items stored inside, Blake said.
Had Tuxford been found guilty of the arson charge, state guidelines would have called for a six-month prison sentence, according to the prosecutor.
Blake noted Tuxford now has two felonies on his record and must pay "a reasonable amount of restitution."
-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.