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Possible Motive Found In String Of Accomack County Fires

The Whispering Pines Motel was one of many targets razed by the accused serial arsonist.
Bryan Russo/WAMU
The Whispering Pines Motel was one of many targets razed by the accused serial arsonist.

Police in Accomack County, Va., released video that could explain the motive behind a five-month long arson spree that became one of the most notorious and puzzling crimes in the region's history.

Former volunteer firefighter Charles R. Smith III pled guilty to 66 counts of arson. Until this point, he had been portrayed as the criminal mastermind behind the string of intentionally-set late-night fires. 

But in the video, Smith tells police that it was his fiancée, Tonya Bundick, who came up with the plan to burn down vacant buildings. Smith explained how arson quickly became a nightly stress reliever for Bundick because one of her children was allegedly having health problems. 

The video shows Smith in handcuffs, smoking cigarettes and confessing to police which of the 77 arson fires he set before police nabbed Bundick and him. He said he never wanted to set the fires, but claims he did it out of love for Bundick.

"I was dead set against it, but I don't know, after she did that first one, it was like some of her problems went away," Smith said. 

Smith faces up to 584 years in prison and more than $5 million in fines. Bundick has been charged with one count of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson.


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