Chesterfield serial arsonist sentenced to 3.5 years - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Chesterfield serial arsonist sentenced to 3.5 years

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

A Chesterfield man will go to jail for three and a half years after prosecutors say he set five fires in just 15 days. Brad Smith plead guilty to five different charges in court Thursday. His family says it was all because of a mental breakdown.

A major piece of evidence in the case was a copy of a letter that was sent anonymously to fire officials. The letter shows a picture from an NBC12 newscast, saying "The fire was arson. Those responsible....may continue to do so unless stopped." The letter also wishes the investigators good luck in their investigation.

Prosecutors were able to link Brad Smith to the crimes, when he went to the hospitals with severe burns. His DNA matched the DNA on items of clothing burned and left at the scene. In an odd twist, prosecutors say they discovered Brad Smith actually sent the anonymous letter himself.

"We found it on his hard drive," said Chesterfield prosecutor, Dennis Collins.

Smith plead guilty to setting the five fires, all within a few miles.

Details of a mental health evaluation read in court say Smith was suffering from depression or psychosis when he set the fires. Family members testified that Smith was a former pastor and teacher who's father just died. 

"This was not my brother," Brad's sister,Kerrey Hughes, proclaimed after court. "He suffered a mental breakdown. He did something wrong and we're going to get our old Brad back. He is extremely remorseful. He feels horrible about what he did."

Collins said Smith could have killed someone and almost did. A homeless man was living inside a home that was set on fire. Luckily, he was out on a walk at the time. Collins says the sentence could have been stiffer.

"He's certainly educated and certainly knew better," said Collins. "And that didn't make any sense for him to do five fires in fifteen days."

As condition of Brad Smith's sentence, the judge ordered him to get mental health help. He will also have to pay roughly $500,000 in restitution to his victims.

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