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Richards charged with arson

  • Lawrence Richards, 29, of Steeleville.

    Lawrence Richards, 29, of Steeleville.
    RCSO Photo

By Staff Report
updated: 4/8/2017 5:30 PM

A 29-year-old Steeleville man has been charged with arson in connection to the April 4 house fire at 10790 Shawneetown Trail.

According to Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker, Lawrence Richards - who was one of the two occupants of the residence - is accused of allegedly setting the blaze.

In his initial appearance in Randolph County court, Richards's bond was set at $50,000 and he was appointed public defender James Kelley as his attorney. Richards's preliminary hearing has been set for April 24 at 1 p.m.

Richards is the grandson of Ralph Lohman, of Steeleville, who was well known in the county as a small engine mechanic and passed away on Feb. 5.

Prior to his death, Lohman was renting the house that burned from Jane Boyd of Sparta, who is listed as the property owner on Randolph County tax records. Members of the Lohman family politely declined comment on the situation due to family members being involved.

Steeleville Fire Chief Rich Reitz ruled the cause of the fire, which was reported at 7:23 a.m., as "suspicious." Smoke was seen pouring out of both ends of the structure, which had a metal roof. Steeleville, Chester and Percy fire departments responded to the blaze.

According to online court records, Richards has mostly traffic offenses in his criminal history, with a DUI conviction in 2014 that cost him five days in jail.

Walker was asked if any additional charges were pending.

"There are always a possibility of different charges, but it's still early in the investigation," he said.