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Insanity plea eyed in arson case

A St. Mary’s judge ordered Wednesday that Mary Ellen Mattingly, 61, of Great Mills be held in jail in lieu of $7,500 bond on an arson charge from a fire last fall at her home, where an injured firefighter had to be flown to a hospital.

The mortgage payments had not been paid for several months at Mattingly’s home on Garfield Street, according to a charges application filed by state investigators. Court papers from Wednesday’s bond hearing indicated that Mattingly’s lawyer might file a plea that the suspect cannot be held criminally responsible for her alleged actions.

Mattingly told authorities after the Nov. 25 blaze that she spilled kerosene while filling a heater on a bedroom floor, court papers state, and that she briefly went for a walk before she returned and found firefighters battling the blaze that originated in that room.

The kerosene heater was not damaged, however, and firefighters found it in the home’s living room, deputy state fire marshal Jeffrey Frye wrote in the charges application. An open flame had been used to ignite the kerosene, the investigator wrote, “that had been poured on the floor and surrounding combustible material” in the bedroom.

Carl Brown, a Bay District volunteer firefighter, was flown to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and to be checked for possible other injuries, after he and firefighter Daniel Martin fell through a floor while they took part in dousing the blaze, Fire Chief Shawn Downs said later that week. Martin suffered burns on his arms and legs, the chief said, but declined medical treatment.

Hollywood house fire ruled accidental

An electrical switch’s malfunction in the crawl space of a Hollywood home started a fire Monday, state investigators report, causing $10,000 damage and displacing an occupant.

Twenty-five Hollywood, Bay District, Leonardtown and Mechanicsville volunteer firefighters responding to an 8:59 a.m. alarm battled the blaze at the Coles Drive residence for 10 minutes to bring it under control, according to a notice of investigation by deputy fire marshal Don Brenneman. American Red Cross volunteers also responded to assist the displaced tenant. No injuries were reported.

Burglary alleged in Great Mills

Jason Alan Decker, 22, of Hughesville has been arrested on charging papers alleging he broke into his grandmother’s home in Great Mills earlier this month, where two diamond rings valued at $6,750 were reported stolen.

Decker was charged with committing a first-degree burglary on Jan. 12 at Patricia Ruth Thompson’s residence, through the investigation by Trooper B.M. Weber of the Maryland State Police. The jewelry was exchanged for cash, court papers state, at TD Gold in Mechanicsville.

Reward offered for tips in cases

Citizens with information about unsolved crimes in St. Mary’s can collect a cash reward by calling St. Mary’s County Crime Solvers 24 hours a day at 301-475-3333. They can withhold their name and later collect their reward through a number-identification system.

The Crime Solvers program assists law enforcement in solving open investigations that may not have been closed without the extra incentive of anonymity and an offer of a reward, providing the information leads to an arrest or indictment.

The Crime Solvers board of directors meets at 10 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the county’s Northern Senior Center in Charlotte Hall. To be considered for membership on the board, attend a meeting or call the Crime Solvers chairperson at 301-884-5417 for details.

Contributions to the Crime Solvers reward fund can be mailed to St. Mary’s Crime Solvers Inc. at P.O. Box 221, Mechanicsville, MD 20659.

Sheriff welcomes tips by text

Cellphones and other handheld communication devices can be used to send text messages with tips for the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office, by texting TIP239, plus the message, to CRIMES, numerically 274637. For more information on the text-message program, go online to www.smscrimetips.com.

Police tips line open

Maryland State Police in Leonardtown operate a Tips Line at 301-475-2936, inviting anyone with information about a crime that has occurred, or they expect may occur, to anonymously report that information 24 hours a day to authorities. Citizens may use the same telephone number to report concerns to police that do not involve criminal activity.

JOHN WHARTON