The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 3, 2013

Ashtabula man gets eight years for part in Park Haven fire

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — A 27-year-old Ashtabula man will spend eight years in prison for his part in the methamphetamine lab fire at Park Haven Nursing Home that killed his brother in March.

Keith E. Bilbrey II was charged with complicity to aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, according to Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court records.

Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel sentenced Bilbrey Monday afternoon. A  father of four children, Bilbrey has been held in the county jail since Aug. 29 on a separate methamphetamine felony drug charge.

Hobart Shiflet is Bilbrey’s court-appointed attorney.

Ashtabula County Assistant Prosecutor Susan Thomas said she believes the complicity to aggravated arson charge accurately describes Bilbrey’s participation in the crime.

She asked Vettel to sentence Bilbrey to five years in prison to run consecutively with three years on the drug charge. The judge did just that.

At a Dec. 12 plea hearing, Bilbrey described the March 4 fire at Park Haven Nursing Home in Ashtabula, like this: “I helped my brother. I aided and abetted a little bit. There was an explosion and that led me here.”

Bilbrey pleaded guilty to information filed by the state of Ohio, and waived his right of indictment by the Ashtabula County grand jury.

Vettel said in this case, Bilbrey will have to serve the eight year prison term.

“There is no early release; no getting out early for good behavior,” he said. “You will be made subject to mandatory post-release controls for five years.”

Vettel said this is a serious case as Bilbrey helped Kevin Bucci and Shaun Warrens risk the physical harm of others. The fire killed 31-year-old Warrens.

Lt. Ron Deemer, fire prevention officer for the Ashtabula City Fire Department, attended all of the hearings in the case.

Park Haven, 4533 Park Ave., closed within months of the fire after being found in violation of seven federal guidelines, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The deficiencies, which included failure to provide smoke detectors and written plans for emergencies, were based on investigations at the facility, said Tessie Pollock, ODH spokeswoman.

The fire occurred at 8:37 p.m. March 4 in room 18 on the second floor, according to the Ashtabula Fire Department’s report.

Warrens died at the MetroHealth Burn Care Center. The death was ruled accidental, according to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s report.

Four other people were hospitalized after the fire, and two people treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.