Deputies: Upshur man allegedly attempted to start a fire inside a house when relatives wouldn’t help him clean the basement

BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County man who allegedly attempted to set a pizza box and various other items on fire because his relatives would not help him clean the basement was arrested Wednesday.

Samuel E. Jones, 31, of Buckhannon, was arrested Nov. 1, 2023, for one count of attempt to commit arson, a felony, and two counts of domestic assault, a misdemeanor.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office by Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. T.R. Collins, the Upshur County E911 Communication Center dispatched him to a residence on Murphy Station Road on Nov. 1 after telecommunicators received a call about a man trying to burn a house down.

The caller told the Comm Center he had locked himself in the bathroom while his relative, Jones, “was attempting to burn the residence down,” according to the police report. When Collins arrived on scene, he spoke with Jones’s brother and father, who said Jones allegedly tried to set the house on fire by burning paper, plastic, and a pizza box and had planned to utilize an oil lamp.

The brother and father said Jones had left the residence before Collins’s arrival, so Collins went to check another location where he suspected Jones might be but failed to find him there.

According to the file, Collins and sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Theron Caynor returned to the Murphy Station Road residence, where they found Jones inside, sitting in a chair while drinking from a tea jug.

“I also observed a burn[ed] piece of paper beneath the coffee table and a half-burnt pizza box,” Collins wrote in the complaint.

When Collins began talking with Jones, Jones allegedly told law enforcement officers that he had wanted his brother and father to help him clean up the basement.

“Since his father and brother did not want to help, he began setting fire to various things within the residence to get them to help him clean,” Collins wrote. “I placed Samuel under arrest and put him in my patrol vehicle.”

Jones’s brother and father told deputies that Jones had allegedly been screaming, “I’ll kill you, I’ll burn this house down” repeatedly. While Jones was setting several fires, the brother had been running around the residence putting them out by “stomping on them, pouring tea on them and placing a pizza box in the sink,” the file states.

The relatives said they feared being seriously injured.

Upshur County Magistrate Alan Suder set bail at $20,000 cash or surety.

The penalty for a conviction of attempt to commit arson – also referred to as fourth-degree arson – is imprisonment in a state penitentiary for a definite term of not less than one year but not more than two years, a fine up to $2,500 or both.

A conviction on each count of domestic assault would carry a penalty of confinement in a regional jail for not more than six months, a fine of up to $100 or both.

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