BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A Columbia, Kentucky man was sentenced Thursday, November 1st, in United States District Court by Judge Greg Stivers to 360 months of imprisonment on charges of arson and insurance fraud. Steve Allen “Boo” Pritchard, 44, started a fire that completely destroyed his rental home to collect on a recently purchased $50,000 rental insurance policy. Columbia/Adair County Fire Department Assistant Chief Charles Sparks died fighting the fire.
“While this 30 year sentence does not return a devoted public servant, friend, and family member to the Adair County community, it should give crystal clear notice to those who would engage in arson for profit that the United States Attorney’s Office will seek significant punishment for such conduct,” stated U.S. Attorney Russell M. Coleman.
Brandi Pritchard, Steve Pritchard’s co-defendant and then girlfriend, purchased a $50,000 renter’s insurance policy on June 24, 2011. Shortly thereafter Steve Pritchard, of Columbia, Kentucky, hatched a plan to set fire to their Columbia rental home, and the fire was set during the early morning hours of June 30, 2011. The Columbia/Adair County Fire Department arrived on scene at approximately 3:12 a.m. Assistant Chief Charles Sparks suffered cardiac arrest while fighting the fire on the second floor of the home. He was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness and died eight days later, on July 8, 2011, at the age of 49. In addition to his volunteer fire fighting, Sparks was also a longtime Kentucky State Fire Marshall. Mr. Sparks was survived by both of his parents, his wife, and his son.
At his July 2018 trial, Pritchard provided an alibi that he was in Louisville delivering glass for his employer during the fire. However, his alibi was disproved by cell phone location data obtained by the FBI. Several witnesses also testified that Pritchard had bragged about starting the fire to collect on the insurance policy. It was also established at trial that Pritchard was involved in setting four previous fires to collect insurance proceeds, including two other residences and two cars. The jury found Pritchard guilty as charged after a four day trial.
At Pritchard’s sentencing, Sparks’ mother, Mrs. Helen Sparks, told Judge Stivers, “Our lives have never been the same since the early hours of June 30, 2011.” Judge Stivers called Pritchard’s crime a “dastardly and depraved act” before imposing Pritchard’s 30-year term of imprisonment.
Pritchard’s co-defendant, Brandi Pritchard, who remains free on bond, has already pled guilty to arson and wire fraud and will be sentenced by Judge Stivers in Bowling Green on November 13, 2018.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Weiser and Nute Bonner and was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police.