BREMEN — Two people facing criminal charges for multiple barn fires in Elkhart County now face new charges for allegedly starting a fire at a Bremen school.
Joseph Hershberger, 42, 65731 CR 31, Goshen, and Sherry Thomas, 32, 69742 SR 19, Nappanee, are each charged with arson, a level 4 felony.
The pair are each facing eight arson charges for barn fires in Elkhart County. The barn fires were reported in Elkhart County on April 13, April 27, May 3, July 28, Sept. 18, Sept. 19, and Oct. 1, 2021. Two barn fires occurred on the Oct. 1, 2021, date.
On May 8, 2021, a Marshall County Sheriff’s Department officer went to Bremen regarding a report of a fire at Rolling Meadow School. Bremen Fire Department requested officers respond, as firefighters believed it was a possible arson investigation.
A witness said he was riding his bicycle home from work when he heard the school’s smoke alarm going off and noticed a broken window with smoke coming out of it. The witness did not see anyone in the area and did not enter the building due to the large amount of smoke.
According to court documents, officers obtained surveillance footage from Rentown Country Store. Pictures of a pickup truck that had driven past Rentown the night of the suspected arson were also obtained. The pickup truck appeared to be silver or gray and had a passenger side headlight out.
On Dec. 4, 2021, officers spoke with Thomas at the Elkhart County Correctional Complex. Thomas said she and Hershberger would drive around while he would pick out barns to burn. She denied burning any barns but said she was with Hershberger during four arson incidents in Elkhart County. Thomas said the two usually drove around in Hershberger’s company pickup truck, which was a dark gray or silver F-150.
In an interview with officers, Hershberger said the only building he and Thomas burned in Marshall County was an Amish school. He allegedly told officers that Thomas broke a window in the school and poured gasoline inside the building.
In December 2021, officers drove to the address of Hershberger’s place of employment and found a pickup truck with a front passenger side headlight not working.
An Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office detective told Marshall County officers they drove Thomas around the fire locations.
Thomas and Hershberger are currently incarcerated in the Elkhart County Correctional Complex.