CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Alum Creek man will spend up to six years in prison for setting a fire near the Steven Wayne Smith Memorial Bridge last December, indirectly causing the death of a firefighter who fell from the bridge as he was attempting to locate the blaze.
Charles Darren Roberts, 37, was sentenced Tuesday on two counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Davis Creek volunteer firefighter Joey King, who fell from the bridge while trying to find the source of the fire. The six-year term, which included five years for the counts of arson and a year for the involuntary manslaughter, was the maximum sentence Roberts could have received by law.
On Dec. 3, Roberts ignited a cardboard box to catch a tire on fire, police said at the time. The fire also ignited 160 railroad ties. King was looking for the tire when he fell off the bridge, officials said.
King's family members, along with Davis Creek Volunteer Fire Chief Jeff Snodgrass, asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman to impose the maximum sentence.
"This man's destroyed my life," Kay Carson, King's common-law wife of 20 years, said during Tuesday's sentencing through spurts of sobbing. "I will never be able to forgive him for what he's done to me.
"Six years is not enough time for Joey's life. Not enough."
In April, a grand jury indicted Roberts on charges of first-degree murder in connection to King's death. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to reduce the murder charge to involuntary manslaughter.
Arietta King, one of Joey King's four sisters, said she originally wanted Roberts to spend the rest of his life in prison. She softened her stance when Roberts pleaded guilty in April, admitting that his actions caused her brother's death, she said.
She asked Roberts to make a better life for himself when he gets out of prison, and asked the judge for permission to shake Roberts' hand. The judge did not allow the handshake.
Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Dan Holstein noted that Roberts testified last year during the preliminary hearing of Shawn Thomas Lester, who pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder charges linked to the death of one of three people killed with a rifle outside of Kanawha County convenience stores in 2003.