Two men charged in an arson that killed a Hamilton firefighter will have one trial and, for now, it will remain in Butler County.
William “Billy” Tucker, 46, of Richmond, Ky., is charged with two counts of aggravated arson and murder for allegedly starting a fire at his uncle’s Pater Avenue residence, where firefighter Patrick Wolterman died in December 2015. The uncle, 66-year-old Lester Parker, who is the home’s owner, also faces the same charges.
The co-defendants were in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing on motion filed by both defense attorneys, including change of venue and severing the cases, which would mean separate trials.
Tamara Sack, attorney for Tucker, requested the court change the venue of the trial to a county “where publicity regarding this case has not been prevalent.”
Media coverage of the case “has been so extensive that the defendant will not be able to receive a fair trial in Butler County,” Sack said.
In court Sack also argued Tucker should have a separate trial because he could be convicted by “guilt by association.”
Tucker had occasion to be in Hamilton well before the incident and stayed at Hamilton hotels. He also used his cell phone and other devices in the city, Sack said, adding that information is being cumulatively used against her client.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens denied both of Sack’s motions at this time, but noted the change of venue would have to be decided when jury selection began. That is when it will be determined if a fair and impartial jury can be seated.
Prosecutors say Parker solicited Tucker to light the fire. Parker and his wife were in Las Vegas when the fire broke out during the early morning hours.
Wolterman died when he fell through the floor while fighting the blaze on Dec. 28, 2015.