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Firefighter charged with setting blaze that killed responder

Robert Lee Beckner, 36, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson
Robert Lee Beckner, 36, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson(West Virginia Regional Jail and Correction Facility/WDTV)
Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 11:52 AM EDT
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WELCH, W.Va. (AP) — A volunteer firefighter accused of setting a blaze that killed a fellow West Virginia fireman has been charged with murder and arson, according to authorities.

Robert Lee Beckner, 36, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Beckner allegedly confessed to lighting a piece of paper on fire and using accelerant to spark a blaze at his own home in Iaeger last weekend, according to court documents filed by an investigator with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Russell Roberson, 42, was responding with the local volunteer fire department around 2:30 a.m. Sunday when he was injured while attempting to save a man from flames that had spread to a nearby mobile home, the newspaper quoted Iaeger Mayor Joe Ford as saying.

Roberson died while being transported to a hospital, authorities said.

The mayor added that Beckner and Roberson were “good friends” who had “worked together at the fire department for several years.”

Beckner remained in jail without bond on Thursday. It’s unclear whether he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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