Man accused of setting huge Middletown warehouse fire declared competent for trial

A Middletown man accused of starting a fire on New Year’s Day at the former Middletown Paperboard complex has been declared competent to stand trial.

Joshua Lamb, 35, is charged with arson and aggravated arson for allegedly starting the fire at 300 S. Verity Parkway that burned for days. In June, Lamb’s attorney, Ramona Daniels, raised concerns about competency and entered a not guilty by reason of insanity plea on his behalf.

ExploreHomeless man charged with Middletown arson, says fire necessary to keep warm

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater ordered a psychological forensic examination of Lamb. After reviewing the results, Pater declared Lamb competent. The insanity defense can still be raised at trial by the defense.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Lamb remains in the Butler County Jail in lieu of a $20,000 bond.

Lamb’s first court-appointed attorney, Robert Qucsai III, entered not guilty pleas to the charges and requested Judge Charles Pater release Lamb so he could work. Qucsai had said Lamb would be living at Hope House, had a job lined up and would go to treatment.

Explore2 Butler County arson cases highlight laws in prosecuting fires

But Pater noted a pre-trial services officer indicated that Hope House directors said Lamb would not be permitted to return because of the pending charges. The judge ruled the bond would remain the same, noting the seriousness of the charges and Lamb’s lack of a permanent address.

Lamb was back in court Tuesday, and a pre-trial hearing was set for Aug. 18.

During a preliminary hearing in January, Middletown Detective Steve Winters said Lamb, who is homeless, told him he started the fire. When he walked away to get more wood, his bedding caught fire, and he fled the scene in the early morning on New Year’s Day.

The fire at the abandoned building burned for days costcost the city an estimated $130,000 in demolition costs and firefighter overtime. The 11-acre site of 61 parcels had an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 square feet of space.

ExploreButler County officials: Mask mandate makes identifying suspects more difficult

About the Author