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Published: Friday, 3/21/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago


Hearing date set in blaze that killed 2 firefighters

Ray Abou-Arab appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on charges of aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated murder in the Jan. 26 apartment fire that killed two Toledo firefighters. Ray Abou-Arab appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on charges of aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated murder in the Jan. 26 apartment fire that killed two Toledo firefighters.

A Lucas County judge on Thursday set a pretrial hearing on May 1 in hopes that attorneys representing Ray Abou-Arab will have received enough information about his case to allow scheduling of hearings on motions.

Mr. Abou-Arab, 61, who is accused of setting the fire in a North Toledo apartment building that killed two Toledo firefighters and injured three others, appeared in common pleas court for hearings on charges related to the fatal fire and an unrelated drug investigation.

The pretrial hearing before Judge Frederick McDonald was the second appearance in court for Mr. Abou-Arab since his indictment on Feb. 7 for the fire that killed Toledo fire Privates Stephen Machcinski, 42, and James Dickman, 31.

Mr. Abou-Arab of 1311 Sierra Dr. owns the Magnolia Street property where the two firefighters were killed and three other firefighters were injured Jan. 26.

He has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder charges, including two counts with specifications that could allow him to be sentenced to death, as well as additional counts of arson and tampering with evidence. A date for a jury trial has not been scheduled.

Pete Rost, an attorney on Mr. Abou-Arab’s defense team, said prosecutors so far have provided a sizable amount of documents and information from the investigations.

Ian English, an assistant county prosecutor, told Judge McDonald that his office expects to have the remainder of the discovery materials available to Mr. Abou-Arab’s attorneys in about three weeks.

Mr. Rost said additional time will then be needed for defense experts to test evidence, including DNA and accelerants, before any decisions can be made on what motions would be filed and eventually addressed by the court in hearings.

“I think the prudent thing to do is to schedule this for a pretrial hearing,” Judge McDonald said.

About 15 friends and supporters of Mr. Abou-Arab filled half of Judge McDonald’s courtroom. Also in attendance were a handful of Toledo firefighters and Chief Luis Santiago, as well as family of the victims.

After the pretrial hearing, Mr. Abou-Arab was taken to the courtroom of Judge Stacy Cook for arraignment on two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance. Judge Cook continued the case to April 7 at the request of attorney James MacHarg, who is on the defense team.

Mr. Abou-Arab and his son, Omar Abou-Arab, 34, of 3552 Lynnbrooke Lane, Oregon, are accused of selling synthetic marijuana.

Mr. Abou-Arab, who is being held in the county jail in lieu of $5,865,000, was dressed in a suit and tie for both hearings.

His attorneys filed a motion with Judge McDonald on Tuesday asking that their client appear in civilian clothing and not handcuffed or in shackles. Such measures, the motion said, would prevent potential jurors from seeing images in the media of Mr. Abou-Arab in handcuffs or jail clothing.

Judge McDonald has not ruled on the motion.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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