A year later, Shake Shoppe fire still lingers

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2003

One year ago today, Ironton firefighters responded to a fire call at The Shake Shoppe on South Third Street.

A year later, the building stands boarded up and the fate of its owner remains unresolved.

Ironton businessman Garry Castle will stand trial for the second time May 21 on

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charges stemming from the fire. The first trial, Feb. 25 and 26, ended in a hung jury when all 12 jurors could not reach a unanimous decision required to convict Castle of aggravated arson.

While Castle admitted to starting the blaze that gutted his restaurant, he contended in his defense during the first trial that he did not knowingly create a substantial risk to firefighters, and therefore should not have been charged with aggravated arson.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., however, maintains

that Castle deliberately set the fire using gasoline, and in so doing, created a greater risk to the lives of the firefighters who came to put out the fire.

Since then, a Lawrence County grand jury has brought back additional charges of arson, fraud

and criminal damaging.

Castle said he is weary of the events of the last year and would like to put the matter behind him.

"I'm a totally different person since then," Castle said. "I have suffered, my family has suffered and we're still suffering. I'd like it to be over with, so I can get back to my life. I know what I did was wrong, although it's not the wrong that it's been made out to be. I'm not a criminal. I had a lapse of judgment."

Castle said he has relied most on the support of his family and fellow congregation members at First Church of the Nazarene to get through the last year.

Ironton Fire Chief Tom Runyon said he thought it best not to make any statements about the case, since a second trial is looming in the near future.

"We don't want to publicly discuss details of the fire that may affect the selection of a jury," Runyon said. "There is a lot we would like to say, but we don't want to run the risk of affecting a jury either way. That's not our purpose. Anything we say could have an effect on the trial."

The Ironton Tribune contacted both Collier and Castle's attorney, Robert Toy, for comment. Both were out of town and not available at press time.