By Deb Patterson
And Dan Spalding
ELKHART — One of two people accused of setting a series of barn fires in the past year has a previous conviction involving arson.
Joseph D. Hershberger, 41, and Sherry L. Thomas, 32, both of 556 W. Market St., Nappanee, each face numerous charges and have an initial court hearing in Elkhart Thursday, Dec. 9.
A search of court documents available online found Hershberger was charged in 2006 with arson, a class B felony, in Elkhart Superior Court 2. Details of the case were not immediately available. He entered a plea agreement to a charge of criminal mischief, a class D felony, and was sentenced to three years on probation.
A further search of Hershberger’s criminal record shows he was cited on Dec. 15, 1997, for having blue lights on a private vehicle and other traffic infractions, including the unlawful use of a police radio and blue lights on a private vehicle. The judgment, in that case, involved fines and court costs.
Public records show Hershberger has a criminal history in Elkhart County, ranging from fraud, battery and invasion of privacy to resisting law enforcement. He also has warrants from, 2017.
InkFreeNews learned that Hershberger was a volunteer trainee with the Syracuse Fire Department for about a year in 2001. The fire department declined further comment.
The Nappanee couple is accused of involving a child in at least one of the fires. They are both facing eight counts of arson, level 4 felonies, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a level 3 felony.
The charges are in connection with fires on:
- April 13 – at 69576 CR 13, New Paris and 23350 CR 38, Goshen
- April 27 – at 703383 CR 29, Syracuse
- May 3 – at 61524 CR 1, Elkhart
- July 28 – at an unknown location
- Sept. 18 – at 25444 CR 38, Goshen
- Sept. 19 – 62045 CR 9, Goshen
- And two fires Oct. 1 at 13394 CR 48, Syracuse and 72648 CR 43, Syracuse.
Among those who owned property that sustained damage from the fires include John Smith, Dennis Culp, Gary Eby, Jacob Yoder, Nelson Martin, Daniel Imhoff, Brad Bobeck and Gary Weybright.
The probable cause affidavit for the case details how police used cellphone data and other evidence to track the couple’s activities.
Police interviewed Thomas, who admitted she was with Hershberger when he started the fires on April 13, July 28 and the two on Oct. 1. She also saw Hershberger attempt to convince a child to start one of the fires on Oct. 1.
During the interview, Hershberger admitted to starting multiple barn fires and that Thomas helped.