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Published: Friday, 7/12/2002

$1M bond set for man accused in fatal blaze


FOSTORIA - A judge yesterday ordered a man held on $1 million bond for setting a downtown rooming house fire that killed a man and a 4-year-old girl.

But the girl's family and others in this northwest Ohio community are angry and somewhat baffled that someone would want to burn down and hurt the people living in the historic building.

Benjamin Lee Greeno, 25, was arraigned in Fostoria Municipal Court yesterday on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of aggravated arson. He is accused of setting the July 4 fire that killed Jamese Williamson and Richard Rayle, 84.

“I'm very happy that they got somebody for this,” said Jamese's mother, Samara Durst. “I hope he pays for every minute my baby was in there.”

Jamese was spending the night with her grandfather at his apartment when the Doeshire Inn erupted in flames about 1:30 a.m. The girl and Mr. Rayle died of smoke inhalation. The other 15 tenants as well as Jamese's sister and two cousins escaped the blaze that gutted the more than 100-year-old downtown building.

Ms. Durst buried her daughter Tuesday.

“All I keep asking is why,” she said. “I want to see justice done.”

Fostoria police arrested Greeno at 4 p.m. Wednesday but declined to disclose a motive or how the fire was started.

In a complaint filed in Fostoria Municipal Court, police Detective Mike Clark said his information “is based on a statement from the suspect, interviews with many other witnesses, and evidence that the fire was caused by an incendiary device.”

Greeno said little in court - only that he is unemployed and has no money to hire a lawyer. Judge John Hadacek appointed an attorney for Greeno and scheduled a preliminary hearing for July 19.

The judge said if a grand jury indicted Greeno before the preliminary exam, the case would be shifted to Seneca County Common Pleas Court. The charge of involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, carries a possible 10-year sentence. Aggravated arson, a second-degree felony, carries a maximum sentence of eight years in jail.

Greeno, who served two years in prison after a 1997 burglary conviction, was ordered held on the high bond. Prosecutor Barbara Dibble said the bond was appropriate because of the seriousness of the charges and Greeno's prior felony conviction. She said additional charges are possible.

Doeshire Inn owner Lloyd Doe said he would like to know why the building was torched. He also said he didn't know Greeno, who wasn't a tenant.

“I don't even know what he was doing here,” Mr. Doe said outside the burned shell of his building.

Mr. Doe said the charred building isn't scheduled to be demolished, though he was ordered to surround it with a chain-link fence and padlock all the doors before the city festival this weekend.

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