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Ross gets not guilty plea for apartment fire

A judge entered an automatic not-guilty plea for a man accused of setting fire to a downtown apartment building Thursday night.

Billy Joe Ross, 59, was charged with first-degree arson after reportedly admitting to setting the fire at 40 N. Main St.

Monday afternoon, Ross made his first court appearance to be arraigned on the charge. Because first-degree arson is a felony, Clark District Judge Charles Hardin entered an automatic not-guilty plea and scheduled a preliminary hearing for June 14.

Ross told police said he set fire to the curtains in Apt. 5 because he was tired of people stealing from him. One of the building’s owners said Ross was not a tenant, but was living there with someone else.

Firefighters said the bulk of the fire was contained to the apartment, though the rest of the building received water, smoke and heat damage.

Three people were rescued from a third-floor window, and four people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Hardin appointed an public defender to represent Ross. Hardin left Ross’ $100,000 cash bond in place.

First-degree arson carries a potential sentence of 20 years to life in prison upon conviction.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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