Arson suspects arrested

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Oct. 19, the Barry County Sheriff's Department arrested Donald Hendershot, 34, of rural Galena, and Sherman Starr, 33, of Monett, in connection with the string of unexplained fires that occurred in the northeast portion of the county over the few weeks.

"This investigation has been ongoing since the first of October and has involved at least 12 active cases, including barns, residences and hay bale fires," said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff.

Last week, Barry County detectives received a tip from a citizen who saw a vehicle leaving the scene of a fire.

"The vehicle was speeding and almost hit the citizen's vehicle," said Epperly. "We started talking to these individuals, and after several hours, they finally admitted to setting the fires."

Henderson and Starr have been charged with knowingly burning or exploding property. The two men appeared in Barry County Associate Circuit Court on Oct. 23. Both men entered pleas of not guilty.

Hendershot is currently being held in the Barry County Jail on $10,000 bond and Starr is being held on $75,000 bond.

"The investigation involved the Barry County Sheriff's Office, Missouri State Fire Marshal's Office, as well as the Jenkins Fire Department, Northern Stone County Fire Department and numerous responsible citizens of Barry County who provided crucial assistance," said Epperly. "Without their assistance, this case would not have been solved."

Barry County investigators believe that other fires, which have not been reported to local law enforcement, could be attributed to Hendershot and Starr.

Detectives are asking citizens to report suspicious fires that have been discovered in northeast Barry County within the last month.

"We know that there have been farmers sleeping in their hay barns to keep an eye on their property," said Robert Evenson, Barry County detective. "We want them to know that they can rest easy now."

To report a suspicious fire, call Barry County detectives at 847-3121 or the Stone County Sheriff's Department at 417-357-6116.

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