- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

CHATHAM, Va. (AP) — A man fired from his masonry job has been convicted of torching the new home of his former boss.

Randall Lee Stacel, 45, was convicted Tuesday of arson and threatening to burn a dwelling. Sentencing is scheduled for July 14 in Pittsylvania Circuit Court.

Stacel, who is being held in the county jail, faces up to 15 years in prison on the two convictions, said Bryan Haskins, deputy commonwealth’s attorney.

Stacel demanded that his former employer rehire him or give him his last paycheck and threatened to burn down his three-story house in Pittsylvania County. The fire occurred Nov. 20.

Mr. Haskins, who prosecuted the case, said Stacel was owed less than $200. His boss’ unfinished house would have been valued at about $300,000.

County Fire Marshal Steve Bowman testified he found no ignition source in the home and could not determine where the fire started.

He also said he could not conclude whether the fire was accidental or intentionally set.

“The residence had totally burned,” he said. “The roof had collapsed into the basement.”

But Mike Myers, a friend of Stacel’s, testified that Stacel told him he started the fire in the fireplace, then fell asleep. Mr. Myers said Stacel told him that when he awoke, the fire was out of control.

Stacel told Mr. Myers that he left the house and went across the street to a wooded area, where he watched the home burn.

Mr. Myers eventually helped county authorities capture Stacel, who was on the run for two days after the incident.

The boss, Charlie Ryan, said Stacel had been living in a workshop on his property free of charge while employed by his company, R&R; Masonry Inc. He said he had fired Stacel one week earlier for drinking on a job site in Lynchburg.

Stacel wasn’t owed any money, Mr. Ryan said, because he had received advances on his paycheck.

Before the trial, Mr. Ryan said he never really believed Stacel would make good on his threat.

“It’s not uncommon for people to get mad at me,” he said. “Why not just beat me up or something?”

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