Ex-firefighter, girlfriend charged in Va. arsons

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm •  Published: April 2, 2013
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During the evenings, the county is dependent on volunteer firefighters, who typically have day jobs, to respond to the fires. The Tasley Volunteer Fire Department Smith is one of 12 volunteer departments in Accomack County.

Residents in the sparsely populated county became accustomed to an increased police presence, with helicopters flying at night.

"There probably is a sense of relief in the community," said Julie Badger, who lives in Melfa, where the most recent fire was set.

Bundick and Smith live together in Parksley, a small community where the first deliberately set fire was lit.

Standing in front of Bundick's small, white home with bicycles in the yard, neighbor Kenneth Peters said he was surprised by the charges. He said Bundick has lived there at least five years with her two sons, and that Smith had recently moved into the home, where Virginia State Police vehicles were parked out front Tuesday. Bundick had worked as an in-home nurse, Peters said, but she's been unemployed for more than a year.

"I wouldn't think they'd be involved in stuff like that, but you never know," Peters said.

In a statement, Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin thanked residents for their patience and support "throughout a very extensive and arduous" investigation.

Geller said more than 1,200 tips had come in since the fires began. On Tuesday, an electronic road sign along the side of the main road through the county continued to ask the public for information.

The sign was a few dozen yards away from where an empty hotel had been set on fire. And the hotel is on the same road as the Tasley Volunteer Fire Department, where Smith had once been a leader. Firefighters who had gathered at the department Tuesday evening declined to comment on Smith's arrest.

John J. Lentini, an arson expert and consultant in Islamorada, Fla., with 38 years of experience as a fire investigator, said serial arsonists are rare — and female serial arsonists even more so.

He also said the number of arsons on the Easter Shore is highly unusual.

"I don't know of any serial arsonist that's ever gotten by with that many," he said. "This is really unusual."

He said there are so few serial arsonists that it's difficult to find a common motivation for their behavior, although "there seems to be a lot of anger involved."

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Associated Press Writer Larry O'Dell contributed to this report from Richmond, Va.

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