Former Minnesota fire chief diagnosed as a pyromaniac during fire-setting trial

Ex-chief Ryan Scharber could be given a five-year sentence for setting fires in the Superior National Forest.
By Evan Bleier  |  March 5, 2014 at 11:49 AM
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BABBITT, Minn., March 5 (UPI) -- The lawyer for a former Minnesota fire chief is trying to get reduce his client’s sentence for setting a series of fires in the Superior National Forest even though he has already been diagnosed as a pyromaniac.

The former fire chief of Babbitt, Minn., Ryan Scharber, is awaiting sentencing and could be given a five-year sentence for lighting the blazes.

His attorney argues that the reason Scharber lit the fires was he needed “to get out of the house for a few hours to get relief from his newborn child’s acid reflux.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne is not buying that excuse. “The psychiatrist at the Range Mental Health Center diagnosed the defendant with pyromania,” Dunne wrote. “The real reason behind the defendant’s criminal conduct in this case was that diagnosis.”

After the evidence eventually pointed to Scharber, he was interrogated at the Babbitt Volunteer Fire Department.

“During the initial 2 1/2 hours of this recorded interview, the defendant did not admit responsibility to any of the suspicious fires,” Dunne wrote. “To the contrary, the defendant attempted to deflect blame and steer the investigators in the direction of other possible suspects for these suspicious fires, including former and current [Babbitt volunteer] firefighters.”

The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to setting one fire in the Superior National Forest and attempted arson of a building at a resort in Babbitt.

Since he confessed, there have been no suspicious fires. Scharber will be sentenced on April 10.

[Minneapolis Star Tribune]

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