A former Lyons resident accused last year of intentionally burning down a rental home, then collecting insurance money and community gifts, was found guilty Oct. 6 in Fulton County Common Pleas Court of all but one charge in a seven-count indictment.
Following an eight-day trial, a jury of five men and seven women deliberated for just over a 24-hour period before declaring Rick T. Lamb Jr. of Maumee guilty of one count of arson, one count of aggravated arson, one count of insurance fraud, one count of grand theft, one count of telecommunications fraud, and one count of falsification in a theft. All are felony offenses.
The jury found him not guilty of a second count of aggravated arson.
Lamb’s sentencing is pending a presentencing investigation. He was taken into custody after the verdict was read, and transferred to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker to await his final hearing.
Fulton County Prosecutor Scott Haselman and Lamb’s attorney, Thomas Molitierno, both declined comment.
A fire broke out Jan. 3, 2015, at about 5:30 p.m. in a house Lamb was renting at 104 Ash St. in Lyons. Shortly before it started, he and his family had left the residence to attend a family gathering at a steakhouse in Holland, Ohio. The multi-alarm blaze gutted the house, causing an estimated $100,000 damage that allegedly included all of the Lambs’ belongings.
Afterward, Lamb accepted donations of clothing, furniture, and toys from firefighters and community members. He later admitted to selling some of the items to raise money for his family. During the same time period, his mother established the Lamb Fire Victim Fund at First Federal Bank in Wauseon.
Following an investigation by local authorities, the state fire marshal, and Nationwide Insurance, Lamb was indicted six months later by a Fulton County grand jury on seven counts – one first-degree felony, one second-degree felony, four fourth-degree felonies, and one fifth-degree felony.
Ohio Fire Marshal Frank Reitmeier had ruled the fire a case of arson, saying he couldn’t pinpoint how it ignited but found sufficient evidence to show it was deliberately set.
Lyons Fire Chief Matt Smithmyer said at the time that personal items Lamb included in his $65,000 insurance claim as destroyed were not found by investigators in the damage.
The grand theft and telecommuications fraud charges stemmed from Lamb’s acceptance of donations from firefighters and community members, enough to fill a 10-foot by 30-foot storage unit donated by Aaron’s Rent To Own in Wauseon.
He pleaded not guilty to all counts, and steadfastly maintained his innocence. He threatened to file lawsuits against the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, the state fire marshal, and the insurance company once he was found innocent by a jury.
In a July 2015 interview with the Expositor, Lamb asserted that the fire investigation was flawed and biased.
“I’ve been open, I’ve been honest from the beginning, until they started making accusations,” he said. “I’m not going to listen to a bunch of accusations.”
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.