West Virginia firefighter accused of setting blaze that led to co-worker’s death

Firefighter accused of setting blaze that led to co-worker’s death

A West Virginia volunteer firefighter is accused of setting a blaze that led to a co-worker’s death, authorities said.

Robert Lee Beckner, 36, of Iaeger, was charged with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson, according to a criminal complaint filed in McDowell County Magistrate Court.

According to the complaint, Beckner confessed to setting fire to his own home in Iaeger early Sunday.

Content Continues Below

That led to the death of Russell Roberson, 42, who was, like Beckner, a member of the Iaeger Volunteer Fire Department, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported. It was the second fire in two days at Beckner’s home, the newspaper reported.

According to court documents filed by Justin England, an investigator with the West Virginia State Fire Marshall’s Office, the Iaeger firefighters responded to a blaze at Beckner’s home.

Sunday at 2:41 a.m., the department was called to the same address for a “rekindle” of the fire, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“During firefighting operations, firefighter Russell Roberson sustained injuries and medical treatment was initiated by EMS,” England’s complaint states.

Roberson died while being transported to an area hospital, the Daily Telegraph reported.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice described Roberson as “an absolute hero.”

“He was trying to rescue him,” Ford told the newspaper. “He was trying to stop him from going back in (to the structure).”

England interviewed Beckner on Thursday. According to court documents, Beckner confessed to setting his home on fire.

“Robert Beckner further confessed that he set the residence on fire by igniting a piece of notebook paper and spreading lighter fluid throughout the residence to accelerate the fire,” England stated in the criminal complaint.

Robert Lee Beckner, a volunteer firefighter in West Virginia, was charged with first-degree murder.
Robert Lee Beckner, a volunteer firefighter in West Virginia, was charged with first-degree murder. (Public Domain Pictures/Pixabay)