CLOVER — Regina Roseboro doesnt want to die burning.
She fears thats bound to happen now that the man who claimed to be a member of the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department and who is accused of setting her boyfriends car on fire has been released on bond and is back home with his mother just two mailboxes down.
Craig Allen CJ Strickland Jr., who is charged with third-degree arson, intentionally set the fire, deputies say, in an effort to get back into the fire departments good graces.
Strickland was never a full member of the department, but instead was on probationary status for about 16 days before he was asked to leave for unprofessional conduct, said Bethel Fire Chief Michael Laws.
At about 5 a.m. Friday, Roseboro, 29, was asleep in the Frank Watts Road home she shares with her boyfriend when she heard a loud boom, she said. She ran outside and found Strickland beside her boyfriends 2004 Chevrolet Malibu, consumed by flames. He told her: Maam, your cars on fire, she said on Tuesday.
Roseboro ran inside the home and instructed her boyfriends aunt to call police and the fire department. She went back outside and beckoned a neighbor to help her douse the flames. Strickland tried to help, as well, she said.
Strickland identified himself as a Bethel volunteer firefighter and denied Roseboros claims that he purposely set the fire because of past issues between him and her boyfriend, Jason Lee Knight, who is being held at the York County Detention Center on a criminal domestic violence charge.
When firefighters arrived, Roseboro said she spoke with officials who told her that Strickland once worked for the fire department but had been let go.
Deputies spoke with Strickland, who said he was in his yard playing with his dogs when he noticed a fire through the patch of woods that separates his home from Roseboros, according to a York County Sheriffs report. He heard a loud boom followed by high flames and realized that it was likely a gas tank explosion.
He grabbed his fire extinguisher and went to Roseboros yard, where he told authorities he found the car on fire. He shouted for help, but no one heard him. He tried to spray the extinguisher on the back of the car just as Roseboro came out of the house and began blaming him for setting the fire.
He told Roseboro to get water and later told authorities he did not understand why Roseboro blamed him, the report states. He wanted to help firefighters extinguish the flames but was asked not to because he did not have his gear.
Roseboro suspected Stricklands involvement because he and Knight, her boyfriend, had been feuding for several years.
Strickland later admitted to deputies that he poured gas on Knights tires and then lit the fire, said Trent Faris, Sheriffs Office spokesman. He called 911 himself and, as fire crews arrived, began spraying the car with the fire extinguisher contents.
His goal was to get back into the fire departments good graces, Faris said, adding that Strickland had been let go after he was charged with driving under the influence.
On Tuesday, Bethel Chief Laws said the DUI was one of several parameters for people on probation that Strickland was unable to maintain. Those parameters help gauge if potential firefighters can follow simple directives and behave.
(Strickland) could not get through probationary parameters we set, Laws said. He could not keep his personal life straight to perform professionally with the department.
He was never a member, Laws said.
Firefighting hopefuls are put on probation until they earn their interior firefighting certification and finish training at the state fire academy. They are allowed to respond to fire calls, place tarp on the ground, attend meetings, gather equipment and make sure firefighters are sufficiently hydrated, Laws said. They are not permitted to fight fires.
I havent slept
If (Strickland) would have walked from that fire and went home, it could have killed us that night, Roseboro said. Whos to say he wont kill us next? Whos to say he wont come tonight and set the trailer on fire?
Shes angry that an accused arsonist can be out on bond, free to set more fires, she said.
Magistrates are obligated to assign a defendant a bond unless they are charged with certain crimes, such as murder, said Judge Bill Womble, president of the state Summary Court Judges Association.
If a magistrate deems a defendant a flight risk or danger to the community, the judge can grant a surety bond, which makes the person bonding the suspect out of jail responsible for ensuring the defendant appears in court and abides by bond conditions. Strickland was released on a surety bond.
Often, victims view bonds as a punitive issue and want defendants chained behind bars until the case is disposed, Womble said.
Thats understandable, but the bottom line is the person has not been convicted yet, he said.
Roseboro described Strickland as a terror to the neighborhood. She has started going door-to-door to win support for a neighborhood watch. Shes asked deputies to increase patrols in the area in the mornings but has yet to see a single patrol car, she said.
I havent slept. ... I cant sleep because Im in fear of losing my life, she said. Hes sleeping fine in his bed while were worried about what hes going to do next. Its one thing to die in your sleep, but its one thing to die burning. I dont want to die burning.
Roseboro said her neighbors are also unnerved.
People on this street are scared. What are we supposed to do? We have no protection from the police, she said.
Deputies have plans to increase patrols in the area and discussed increased enforcement on Tuesday, Faris said: Were out there.
A changed boy
He has anger problems, Linda Strickland said about her son on Tuesday. He did start the fire. He did dial 911.
She told The Herald that Strickland admitted to setting the fire because he was angry with Knight. Recently, she said Knight called her son a loser and threatened to barbecue his dog. She theorizes that in an effort to prove hes not a loser, Strickland set Knights car on fire.
When she picked Strickland up from jail, her son said, Mom, I am so sorry, and I did it, Mom. I was trying to put it out.
Instead of being angry, Strickland is calm and subdued, his mother said.
It was a horrible thing for him to reach this point, she said. He is a changed boy.
Strickland loved firefighting, his mother said. When he got his uniform, he was so proud and happy.
Court records show that Strickland was charged with reckless driving, speeding and driving under the influence in August. He pleaded guilty to the former two charges, but the latter charge will be dismissed, his mother said.
Strickland had planned to return to firefighting. He wanted to wait until he got his drivers license back.
State law forbids anyone with an arson charge, no matter how minor, from working as a firefighter. Third-degree arson is a felony carrying a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082