AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A man already charged in a blaze that killed seven people in May has been indicted on aggravated murder charges in that fire and in a second fire that killed two people on the same Ohio street last year, prosecutors said Thursday.
A Summit County grand jury on Thursday indicted Stanley Ford, 58, in the May 15 fire in Akron that killed two adults and five children, county prosecutors said. Ford had pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated murder after his May arrest in that blaze and remains jailed on $7 million bond.
The grand jury also indicted the Akron man in an April 2016 fire that killed 66-year-old Lindell Lewis and 65-year-old Gloria Hart and in a vehicle fire on another street in January that didn’t involve injuries, authorities said.
One of the attorneys representing Ford said Thursday that Ford maintains he is innocent.
“We look forward to reviewing the evidence and defending him in court,” defense attorney Joseph Gorman said.
Prosecutors say all three fires were within a block of Ford’s home. They wouldn’t comment on a possible motive in the fires and said they were unable to discuss evidence in the case.
“Never before in Summit County history has one man been charged with the murders of nine people,” Criminal Chief Assistant Prosecutor Margaret Scott said.
In both fatal fires, the victims were trapped and overcome by smoke with no way to escape, Scott said.
“Their deaths are a horrific tragedy, which not only impacted these families, but the entire neighborhood and community,” Scott said.
Those killed in the May 2017 fire were 35-year-old Dennis Huggins, his partner, 38-year-old Angela Boggs, and five children: 14-year-old Jered Boggs, 6-year-old Daisia Huggins, 5-year-old Kylle Huggins, 3-year-old Alivia Huggins and 16-month-old Cameron Huggins.
In the 2016 fire that killed Lewis and Hart, a third person escaped and survived, authorities said.
In addition to multiple counts of aggravated murder, Ford was indicted on attempted aggravated murder, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated menacing and cruelty to animals charges.
Ford could receive the death penalty if convicted on the aggravated murder counts, prosecutors said.
Gorman said that he and co-counsel Donald Malarcik are disappointed that the indictment contains death penalty specifications.
“We don’t believe the death penalty is right in any situation,” Gorman said.
He also said they don’t believe a potential death penalty, if Ford were to be convicted, would be “prudent,” given Ford’s age and the additional expense involved in a capital case, which usually includes a lengthy appeals process.
Ford is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 2.