Fires

Homeowner accused of arson, murder in blaze that killed Ohio firefighter

The undated photos at left shows Hamilton (Ohio) firefighter Patrick Wolterman, who died fighting a fire on Dec. 28, 2015. Homeowner Lester Parker, right, was arrested Dec. 12, 2016 and accused of aggravated arson and murder in the case.

The undated photos at left shows Hamilton (Ohio) firefighter Patrick Wolterman, who died fighting a fire on Dec. 28, 2015. Homeowner Lester Parker, right, was arrested Dec. 12, 2016 and accused of aggravated arson and murder in the case.  (Hamilton Fire Department/Hamilton Police Department)

The owner of an Ohio home that burned down late last year, killing a local firefighter, was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated arson and murder, authorities said. 

Lester Parker, 66, was arrested at a home near the site of the one that went up in flames last Dec. 28, Hamilton police Chief Craig Bucheit said.

Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman, 28, crashed through a floor soon after entering the smoke-filled house and was killed. A coroner ruled the case a homicide and said Wolterman died of smoke inhalation.

He "died in the line of duty fighting to save lives believed at risk," county prosecutor Mike Gmoser said in a statement.

Firefighters thought there could be people trapped inside but later were told the residents were on vacation.

Bucheit said the investigation continues and he expects more arrests. He declined to discuss a motive in the case.

Uniformed firefighters from across the country were among thousands of people who turned out for a procession and the funeral for Wolterman, the first Hamilton firefighter killed in the line of duty since 1971.

Authorities in the city of 62,000 residents announced in January that the house fire had been ruled arson and that Wolterman's death was being investigated as a homicide. State fire marshal's investigators and the investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined local investigators in the probe.

A $25,000 reward was offered, but Bucheit said no one had claimed it.

The murder charge carries a potential sentence of 15 years to life upon conviction; aggravated arson carries a potential maximum term of 11 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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