Report: Man rigged propane tank, hose; house blew up as stepdad lit cigarette



Miami County man faces aggravated murder charge, sanity evaluation after stepfather died in explosion

TROY — A Miami County judge ordered evaluations of sanity and competency to stand trial for a St. Paris man charged with aggravated murder and aggravated arson in the death of his stepfather following a house fire in Laura.

Seth Z.R. Johnson, 24, is charged in a Feb. 12 explosion and fire in Laura in which Jack Noble, 58, was critically injured. Noble died later in the month.

Johnson pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and, aggravated arson in county Common Pleas Court, where bail of $1 million cash or surety was set by Judge Jeannine Pratt. She later ordered the evaluations after filing of pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity by Johnson.

He will be evaluated at the Forensic Psychiatry Center for Western Ohio in Dayton.

Credit: Miami County Jail

Credit: Miami County Jail

The fire and Noble’s death is being investigated by the county sheriff’s office. Johnson’s public defender did not respond to a request for comment.

The explosion occurred around midnight. The first deputies to arrive at the fire said in their reports that they found the house engulfed in flames.

Neighbors said they heard an explosion and looked or went outside to see a vehicle driving quickly from the area of the house. At least two reported seeing Noble come from the house on fire. One said he told him he was getting ready for bed when he lit a cigarette, and the house blew up.

The witnesses said Noble told them the fire was started by his stepson and said they had a dispute involving attempted theft of his money, according to the law enforcement report.

Johnson was located a few hours later in Greene County and taken into custody.

The report includes a detective’s visit to the fire scene with a state fire marshal’s office investigator where they saw an air hose and a water hose that had been taped together. One hose appeared to have been connected to a propane tank line into the garage. That hose was connected to the water hose that extended through a garage door into the house deck and then through a window. A portion of the hose was found inside the house.

The investigation report details detectives’ interviews with Johnson during which he said he was angry with his stepfather, and blamed him for his mother’s death.

The investigators wrote Johnson told them he had intended to poison Noble while he slept, but then the explosion occurred. He said he took an X-box player from the house and a dog before leaving that night.

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