licking man pleads guilty to arson fires
at truck stops in six states
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Licking, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to setting a series of arson fires at truck stops across six states.
Steven Oakley Price, 41, of Licking, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to seven counts of arson.
“These reckless acts of arson threatened the lives of others and caused significant property damage across a multi-state region,” said Phillips. “Thanks to the diligent work of law enforcement agents, this year-long crime spree was brought to an end.”
Price, an over-the-road truck driver, admitted that he set arson fires that burned a number of tractor-trailer rigs in Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa and Illinois between August 2009 and June 2010.
“Fortunately, the victims in this case were not killed or seriously injured by these fires,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Michael P. Gleysteen. “I am proud of the tireless work of ATF agents from around the country, who worked side by side with our state and local partners, to bring Steven Price to justice.”
Missouri State Fire Marshal Randy Cole stated, “When law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level make a concerted effort to work together in an investigation we all win. Successful disposition of these cases can be attributed to the diligence and perseverance of all assigned investigative personnel. I can tell you it is such a rewarding feeling for those investigators to see their hard work pay off through a successful prosecution and case disposition.”
Price committed arson by inserting fuel-soaked clothing, rags or fuel filters in or around the wheel wells of tractor-trailer trucks, most of which were parked and occupied at the time the fires were started. Several fires occurred at a truck stop in Kingdom City, Mo., and Price was identified as a suspect when he was observed at the scene of the fires. Price’s employer, Tennant Truck Lines of Orion, Illinois, utilized GPS technology to track its drivers. With Tennant’s assistance, law enforcement investigators began to track Price’s travel.
On Aug. 26, 2009, a fire was intentionally set under a commercial tractor-trailer rig in Richmond Hill, Ga. Price’s tractor-trailer rig was parked immediately adjacent to the burned truck. During April 2010, five arson fires were set under commercial tractor-trailer rigs in Mississippi, West Virginia, Iowa and in Kingdom City, Mo.; in each case, GPS data placed Price at or near the scene of the fire. During May 2010, nine arson fires were set under commercial tractor-trailer rigs in Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana; in each case, GPS data placed Price at or near the scene of the fire. Four of the May 2010 arsons were in Kingdom City and one was in Oak Grove, Mo.
On June 23, 2010, a truck parked at a truck stop in Valley Grove, W.Va., was damaged by a fire that was intentionally set in the same manner as the other arson fires. Investigators had been conducting surveillance of Price using GPS data, and he was arrested in his truck parked a short distance away.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government and Price agree to a sentence of eight years in federal prison without parole, subject to the court’s acceptance of the plea agreement. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lynn. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Missouri Division of Fire Safety, and the Callaway County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.