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Published: Tuesday, 2/11/2014

Arson suspect makes 1st court appearance

Arraignment of Oregon man pushed to Feb. 25

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ray Abou-Arab appears in Common Pleas Court for his araignment Tuesday with attorney James MacHarg, left. Judge Frederick McDonald set Mr. Abou-Arab’s bond at $5.85 million. Ray Abou-Arab appears in Common Pleas Court for his araignment Tuesday with attorney James MacHarg, left. Judge Frederick McDonald set Mr. Abou-Arab’s bond at $5.85 million.
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With a fraternity of Toledo firefighters looking on, the Oregon man charged with setting a fire that killed two of their brethren and injured three others made his first appearance Tuesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Toledo Fire Department personnel including Jeff Romstadt, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, front, walk to the courtroom Tuesday before the arraignment of Ray Abou-Arab. Toledo Fire Department personnel including Jeff Romstadt, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, front, walk to the courtroom Tuesday before the arraignment of Ray Abou-Arab.
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Judge Frederick McDonald set bond at $5.85 million for Ray Abou-Arab, 61, of 1311 Sierra Drive, the owner of the Magnolia Street apartment building where the fatal fire was set Jan. 26. He could get the death penalty if convicted.

Shackled and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, Mr. Abou-Arab stood silently next to attorneys James MacHarg and Pete Rost. Mr. Rost asked the court to continue the arraignment for two weeks while Mr. Abou-Arab’s family members determine whether they can afford to hire private legal counsel.

Judge McDonald rescheduled the arraignment for Feb. 25, and it’s likely the firefighters and commanders will be back for what is expected to be a long road ahead.

“The firefighters’ union and the fire department are both committed to having a constant presence throughout the process,” fire Chief Luis Santiago said afterward.

Mr. Abou-Arab, who has been held in the Lucas County jail since his arrest Jan. 31, was indicted Friday by a Lucas County grand jury on two counts of aggravated murder, each with death penalty specifications; two counts of murder, eight counts of aggravated arson, and one count of tampering with evidence stemming from the fire that killed Toledo fire Pvts. Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.

The eights counts of aggravated arson were filed for the two firefighters who were killed, three firefighters who were injured, and three individuals who occupied the two apartments directly behind and above the garage where an ignitable liquid was allegedly used to start the fire.

At the request of Mr. MacHarg, Judge McDonald granted a motion to preserve evidence at and from the crime scene, ordering that the city of Toledo “take no action to destroy the fire scene or change the fire scene without prior order of this court.”

“Obviously, if it’s a safety hazard and it has to be destroyed because of the safety of the neighbors, it can’t be preserved, this is another issue,” the judge said. “I will certainly be open to any motion to modify this order.”

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, told the court he was “informed by the fire department that [the building] at least appeared to be unstable.”

Mr. MacHarg said a construction engineer had inspected the building and found it “secure as of the time being. If there’s any necessity for shoring up or other buttressing of what’s left of the building we are prepared to have that done to the satisfaction of any city authority.”

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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