BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The man accused of setting the old Bedford Middle School on fire in January 2020 entered a guilty plea on Friday afternoon for arson and burglary charges.
On Jan. 23, 2020, the Bedford Fire Department responded to a fire at the old Bedford Middle School. Fire crews worked to control the fire throughout the day and responded to small patches of fire that reignited overnight.
Investigators found traces of an accelerant and determined the fire was ignited intentionally. Photos from surveillance video captured images of a potential person of interest.
Several weeks later, on Feb. 19, 2020, the Bedford Police Department announced that, with help from the community and surveillance cameras, they were able to arrest then-21-year-old Daniel Jared Flint, a former student from the school.
Flint was charged with burglary and arson in connection with the fire at the old Bedford Middle School. He also had prior charges, including an attempted arson charge linked to a fire from Oct. 13, 2016.
Flint was scheduled to appear to enter a guilty plea on June 1. Instead, Flint’s attorney, Michael Lonchar, requested to have a mental health expert evaluate whether Flint’s autism may be relevant to the case.
However, details of that evaluation were not shared.
Then, on Friday, Nov. 19, Flint pled guilty to felony charges of statutory burglary and arson of an unoccupied public building. He is set to be sentenced on March 1, 2022.
The defense attorney requested that the court defer adjudication which means not finding guilt.
According to Bedford Commonwealth Attorney Wes Nance, a recent statute recently passed by the General Assembly allows for the court specifically to take into consideration mental health diagnosis and one of those specifically in the statute is autism.
The loss of the historic former Bedford High School — which became, years later, Bedford Middle School — was felt by entire the town. It’s one of only three remaining buildings that share a history with The Bedford Boys, Company A of the 29th Infantry Division.
In the nearly-22 months since the fire, McCormack has expressed, in interviews with WFXR News, the importance of preserving as much of the building’s façade as possible and recognizing its importance to the community.
Once complete, the old middle school will become a 60 bedroom apartment complex. The building next door will be a 34-room boutique hotel with a ballroom.
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