Trial date set for Madison Twp. man accused of starting fatal arson fire

·2 min read

Oct. 28—A Madison Twp. man accused of setting a trailer fire last fall that killed a man has been found competent and a trial has been set for next year.

James D. Johnson, 57, of Catalina Manufactured Home Community, was booked into the Middletown City Jail a few days after the Sept. 21, 2020 fire at the Germantown Road residence.

A month later, Johnson was indicted by a Butler County grand jury for murder and aggravated arson for allegedly starting the fatal fire. Steven C. Strain, 59, was found dead in the mobile home,

The trailer was engulfed in flames when deputies arrived about 8:06 p.m. The deputies attempted to get inside to the bedroom of a man trapped, but were unable because of the intensity of the fire, according to the Butler County Sheriff's Office.

At the scene, Johnson told deputies he was smoking a cigar and laid it down on a roll of toilet paper, causing a fire.

Johnson made a statement that he would burn down the trailer if he was forced to move out, according to Sheriff's detectives.

After three psychological evaluations, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Dan Haughey found Johnson competent to stand trial. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 24. Johnson is scheduled to be back in court Dec. 7 for a pre-trial hearing.

He remains housed in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Madison Twp. Fire Chief Kent Hall said last year firefighters had put out a blaze at the same trailer Aug. 12. During that fire, three trailer park employees pulled Johnson from inside the rear door and removed him from the trailer. He is the original owner of the trailer, according to fire officials.

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Lauren Pack

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