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Pennington Gap woman, children sentenced in attempt to burn own home

February 17th, 2014 8:59 pm by Wes Bunch

Pennington Gap woman, children sentenced in attempt to burn own home

Patricia Ellen Wade, 45

JONESVILLE — A Southwest Virginia mother, her two children and her daughter’s boyfriend were all sentenced to prison last week in Lee County for their roles in a failed plot to burn down their mobile home and collect the insurance payout.

Patricia Ellen Wade, 45, and her son, Ricky Lynn Wade, 22, both of Pennington Gap, were given active sentences of four years and two months in prison after being convicted in January on seven counts each of arson, insurance fraud and conspiracy.

Rebecca Ellen Wade, 24, was ordered to serve an active sentence of three years following her conviction on five arson and insurance fraud related counts, while her then-boyfriend — Eric Devlin Williams, 38 — received a sentence of two years and six months for his role in the plot.

The Wades were also ordered jointly to pay $9,805 in restitution to the HomeFirst Agency insurance company.

Lee County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shawn Hines said his office argued for the co-defendants to receive the upper range of the state’s sentencing guidelines.

“The sentence was below the high point of the guidelines,” Hines said. “We hoped the sentence would be longer because the truth isn’t in any of these individuals and they never took responsibility for what they did.”

The charges against the Wades and Williams stem from incidents that occurred at the family’s former residence in Lee County’s Dot community on back-to-back days in March 2012.

Hines said the Wades came up with a plan to burn down their trailer after the bank foreclosed on it in early 2012. The family apparently planned to use the money from the fire’s insurance settlement to repurchase the foreclosed property on which their trailer sat.

According to Lee County authorities, the group’s first attempt at burning down the trailer was unsuccessful and occurred on the same day as the property foreclosure.

Hines said Patricia Wade, Ricky Wade, Rebecca Wade and Williams attempted to start a grease fire by filling a deep fryer with cooking oil and dousing it with water.

When that proved unsuccessful, investigators said they tried other techniques to spark the blaze, like spraying cooking spray directly into a hot stove eye.

After believing the fire was set, the family went to Norton to check into a hotel. Hines said Patricia Wade then called Lee County 911 and told dispatchers she received an anonymous call telling her that her trailer had burned down.

The dispatcher noted that Wade sounded shocked when she called back to inform her the trailer had not burned.

Hines said all four returned to the residence the following day to make another attempt at setting the fire.

This time, Hines said the Wades and Williams poured kerosene throughout the residence before setting it alight and leaving the scene.

The Virginia State Police began investigating the fire after they were contacted by representatives of the Wades’ insurance company about suspicions they had regarding the incident.

All four reportedly told investigators that they had been in Norton for a job fair when the fire began.

After they were questioned repeatedly, Hines said investigators began noticing inconsistencies in each suspect’s version of the incident.

Hines said Williams eventually confessed to being asked by Patricia Wade to help her and her children burn down the residence and collect the insurance money. Despite that confession, which was later recanted, Hines said the Wades maintain they played no role in starting the fire.

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