HUNTSVILLE, Tenn. – A man pleaded guilty Monday to a child pornography charge that authorities say drew two men to set a house fire that killed his wife in a botched bid to drive him from their neighborhood.
Timothy Chandler, 53, was sentenced to five years of probation but will serve no jail time on the lone count of sexual exploitation of a minor. He was ordered to pay court costs and register as a sex offender for having hundreds of child porn photos on a computer disk that his wife's relatives found.
Chandler waited in the rear of the courtroom as Gary Sellers, 39, and Robert Bell, 37, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated arson charges in the death of Chandler's wife, 37-year-old Melissa "Missy" Chandler. They could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Sellers and Bell are accused of drunkenly torching the tiny rental house where the Chandlers had lived for nine years. The fire occurred Sept. 2, three days after Timothy Chandler was released on bond on the porn charge.
"It is unbelievable that anybody would do that," Chandler said outside the Scott County courtroom before his plea. "Anybody can be charged with anything and not do it. And then be burned out ... that is the worst kind of thing I could think of."
Bell's lawyer, Lief Jeffers, said last month that Chandler's death "was not anything that was intended by any of the parties," without elaborating.
On Monday, he said his client would not concede even that he was involved.
"At this point, we are not admitting anything," Lief Jeffers said.
Attorney Jim Terry of Oneida was appointed late Monday to represent Sellers. A message left at a home listing for a Jimmy Terry in Oneida was not immediately returned.
Malinda Lindsey of Monroe, Ohio, attended the court proceedings wearing a T-shirt with a photo of her sister, Melissa Chandler, printed on it. She blamed Sellers and Bell for setting the fire and Timothy Chandler for being "a sick individual. I have nothing good to say about him at all."
She also blamed herself for not persuading her sister to leave Chandler after he was sentenced in 1990 in Ohio for gross sexual imposition, which typically involves fondling. The former school bus driver served 18 months in jail on the charges, which he said involved two girls then ages 1 and 4.