The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 13, 2013

From nursing home to prison

Ex-Park Haven resident gets 8 years for his part in fire

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  A former Park Haven Nursing Home resident will spend eight years in prison for his part in the methamphetamine lab fire at the Ashtabula facility that killed a man on March 4, 2012.

Kevin Bucci, 42, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to complicity to aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court.

He previously pleaded guilty to illegal assembly of drugs, a third-degree felony, according to court records.

Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey sentenced Bucci on both counts Tuesday morning.

Bucci is a man with a history of medical problems, including depression and anxiety, “but he has no significant criminal history,” except for some drug problems, his attorney, Virginia Miller, said.

The judge asked Bucci to tell him what happened in his room at Park Haven that night.

Bucci said Shawn Warrens, 31, and Warrens’ brother, Keith Bilbrey II, 27, came to visit him.

Warrens made meth in a one-liter pop bottle inside Bucci’s room because it was too cold to do it outside, he said.

“(Warrens) was lighting the bottom (of the pop bottle) and in a few more minutes, it blew up,” he said. “I helped put the fire out on him.”

Bucci said Bilbrey was nowhere to be found after the fire.

The fire killed Warrens.

Ashtabula County Assistant Prosecutor Susan Thomas said Bucci bought Sudafed for Bilbrey and Warrens. She also said Bucci has cooked meth in the facility.

“He was fully aware of what was in the bottle (that exploded),” she said, noting drain cleaner, Sudafed and cold packets were found in his room.

She asked Mackey to sentence Bucci to eight years in prison — the same sentence Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel gave Bilbrey in January.

Before Mackey handed down his sentence, Bucci apologized for the crime, to the people at Park Haven and to the staff for putting their lives in danger and for the eventual closing of the facility.

Miller said her client dropped out of school in 10th grade, struggled with learning disabilities and was in special education classes. He also takes medication for an array of health problems.

The prosecutor showed the judge photos of the fatal burns Warrens suffered in the fire and the damage done to Park Haven.

“Thirty-eight people lived in Park Haven; this was their home,” Thomas said. “The defendant took all that away from them ... people there lost their employment.”

Lt. Ron Deemer, fire prevention officer for the Ashtabula City Fire Department, said he believed “the sentencing should be at least as severe as what Keith Bilbrey got.”

The judge agreed, giving the former Park Haven resident eight years behind bars and five years of post-release control. He also can never own a firearm.

“Your actions had an impact on others,” Mackey said. “I can’t imagine anything more fearful ... to be engulfed in flames. They must have been terror stricken.”

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

The deficiencies, with 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 happened 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 were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

The nursing home is going to be auctioned off at 11 a.m. March 21.