Sammons arson trial begins June 30

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

The arson trial for Johnny Sammons is on schedule to begin Monday, June 30, in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge D. Scott Bowling.

No significant changes in the Sammons trial happened after a pre-trial hearing Wednesday morning in the judge’s chambers. Jury selection is expected to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Sammons, 26, was indicted in early March on four counts of first-degree aggravated arson and a single count of second degree aggravated arson.

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The charges resulted from an early hours fire on Dec. 9, 2007, that destroyed a duplex on Stanley Drive in South Point,

where Sammons was living with his wife, Michele, and two children, Vanessa Johnson, then 6, and Melissa Sammons, then 1.

Volunteer firefighters from four departments were at the scene for seven hours containing the blaze.

Living at the

adjoining apartment were Sandra Sipps,

her daughter, Alexis, then 12, son Lathan, then 16, and a friend, Tammy Woods. At the time of the fire both families reported that they lost everything they owned.

Sammons was arrested on March 16 at Fort Jackson, S.C., and transported back to Lawrence County on April 5.

He pleaded not guilty on April 9 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and remains in jail under a $200,000 bond.

Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said there is substantial evidence that Sammons set the apartments on fire.

“He had various motives including he was being evicted,” Anderson said. “There were at least two origins of fire in the apartment.”

Attorney Mike Gleichauf, who was appointed Sammons attorney in April, declined to discuss his defense.

If convicted Sammons could face from three to 10 years on the four first-degree counts and two to eight years on the lesser charge.