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Man sets house on fire, sits in chair with gun as it burns

Firefighters were kept on standby as the house burned until police had the scene under control

By Aaron Krause
Norwalk Reflector

FLATROCK, Ohio — An area man faces domestic violence and possibly other charges after he allegedly struck his wife, threatened to burn down their rural Seneca County house with her in it and set it on fire.

The suspect received minor injuries from the fire, which did not harm his wife but destroyed the house, Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckelberry said.

Following an investigation, Lloyd Hicks, 72, of 6681 N. County Road 29, Flat Rock, was taken to a Toledo mental hospital for an evaluation.

Eckelberry said Hicks will be taken to the Seneca County Jail once he's released from the hospital. "That's going to be entirely up to those folks" as to when Hicks is released, the sheriff said.

Eckelberry said Donna Hicks, 55, had come home this morning and got into an argument with her husband. He then allegedly assaulted his wife.

He reportedly tried to keep her in the residence while he set the home ablaze. The sheriff said he did so by pouring gasoline on rags and setting them on fire.

"She was able to get away," the sheriff said, adding she defended herself by kicking him. She drove to her work uninjured from the fire but hurt from being beaten, and reported what had happened, Eckelberry said.

An employee called Bellevue police, who sent an officer to talk with Hicks' wife. Bellevue police also contacted the Seneca County Sheriff's Office. Not long after, the county sheriff's office received a report of a house fire at that address.

Firefighters were dispatched and a deputy responded. The sheriff said deputies kept firefighters on standby until they could secure the scene; a deputy found the suspect in his backyard with a .45 caliber handgun.

As the deputy arrived, Hicks allegedly fired a shot in the deputy's direction and fired a second shot.

Shortly after the first deputy arrived, two other deputies arrived as did the sheriff after learning about shots being fired.

Eckelberry said the suspect had the gun in his lap and put the weapon under his chin numerous times.

Seneca County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Scott Beier tried to talk Hicks into putting down his gun.

Due to wind conditions and the sounds of the fire, it was difficult to hear the suspect, Eckelberry said. Beier spoke to Hicks over a publicaddress system. Negotiations lasted 30 to 45 minutes, Eckelberry said.

The sheriff said while it was difficult to hear Hicks, officers could make out him saying that they needed to leave his house.

"We wanted him to put (the gun) down and walk over to a shelter 30 to 40 feet away," he said.

The suspect finally arose but took the gun with him to the shelter, the sheriff said.

Beier again asked Hicks to put his gun down.

"If you put yours down, I'll put mine down," the sheriff quoted him as saying.

Eckelberry said he instructed his deputies to lower their weapons and Hicks put his gun on a storage box.

The sheriff approached the suspect and talked to him about what happened. Eckelberry walked Hicks to deputy Mark Lawson's vehicle and Hicks was taken to the sheriff's office "for his own protection," the sheriff said.

"When I approached him I had no problems with him whatsoever," Eckelberry said.

Another deputy spoke to Hicks' wife, and she signed a domestic violence form, Eckelberry said.

The sheriff said she sustained injuries from the assault, "but it didn't sound like it was bad."

The suspect received minor injuries to his arm as a result of the fire, Eckelberry said.

The sheriff commended the work of his officers and those from other agencies.

"Everybody did a fantastic job," the sheriff said. "When everybody walks away from something like this with little to no injury, it's a great day."

In addition to the Seneca County Sheriff's Office, the Huron County Sheriff's Office, Bellevue Police Department, state troopers, Green Springs Police Department and the Bellevue Fire Department responded to the scene. The state fire marshal's office also responded.

Detective Sgt. Kevin Reinbolt is in charge of the investigation. He will consult with the county prosecutor's office for possible additional charges, the sheriff said.

Lt. Tony Schaffer of the Bellevue Fire Department said firefighters used about 11,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire. A dozen firefighters were on scene for about three hours, Schaffer said. He estimated the monetary loss at $195,000, which includes the home, its contents and a car that was outside.

A neighbor of the Hicks, who declined to be identified, said in a way, he's not surprised the incident happened.

"He was sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," said the man, who lives two doors down. There have been "a couple of" domestic situations, he added.

The neighbor also said Hicks yelled at him when he walked his dog near his house.

But "for him to snap like that really surprised me."

The man added he was surprised that Hicks would set fire to his home. Hicks was always "very particular" with his house, always keeping the landscaping in good shape, he said.

___

(c)2013 the Norwalk Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Distributed by MCT Information Services




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