ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) - The couple accused of terrorizing the Eastern Shore by setting fires repeatedly for months appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Monday.
State Police said Tonya Bundick and Charles Smith III are responsible for the majority of the 77 arsons set in Accomack County between November 2012 and April 2013.
For more than three hours, a General District judge heard the Commonwealth's evidence against Bundick and Smith. The judge then certified arson and conspiracy charges against the couple. Their case is now headed to a grand jury.
During the preliminary hearing, seven investigators and an arson victim testified in court. State troopers and special investigators gave revealing testimonies about the state of mind and behavior of Bundick and Smith on the night of their arrest.
The last home set ablaze on the Eastern Shore was on Airport Road in Melfa. The owner of the property, Claud Henry, testified he put more than $22,000 worth of improvements into the home before it was burned the night of April 1.
Troopers were doing surveillance in a camouflage tent in the woods near Henry's property that night. Trooper Troy Johnson testified he was using night vision when he saw a man get out a minivan and run toward the back door of Henry's property.
Trooper Johnson said the man jammed something into the door, and ignited it. When the house caught fire, Johnson and another trooper ran after the man. Johnson said the man then ran toward Airport Road, and jumped into the passenger side of a minivan.
Moments after the van sped away from the scene, it was pulled over by an Accomack County deputy and a Virginia State trooper. Investigators testified Bundick was driving the minivan and Smith was in the passenger's seat.
Accomack County Sheriff Todd Godwin testified he went to the scene of the arrest. Smith apologized saying, "I'm sorry, but I didn't light them all."
Investigators testified Bundick did not speak and appeared calm during the arrest. During her interrogation, however, investigators said Bundick told them she did not know Smith was going to set fire to the home on Airport Road; she said she drove Smith out to Melfa to take a break from her children.
Special agents testified Smith was interviewed for more than four hours after his arrest on April 1. During the interrogation, Smith told investigators, "I knew we were busted before we did it. I even told her this place was a setup. She's smarter than me and said it wasn't. It was a dead giveaway. There were too many cars there. I had never seen that many cars."
The owner of the property on Airport Road said even though the fire cost him $2,500 in damages, he has no ill feelings toward Bundick or Smith.
"It could have been burnt to the ground," Henry said. "I had only minor damages, approximately $2,500 in damage. It could have been worse, compared to those who lost everything."
The prosecuting attorney did not want to speak about the details of the hearing, but told WAVY.com the hearing is a step toward closure for residents in Accomack County.
"I think people are relieved that an arrest was made," said Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Agar.
Bundick and Smith will appear in court again for a grand jury hearing. The next grand jury in Accomack County meets the first Monday in August.
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