Gilboa trailer fire ruled arson

THIS TRAILER in Gilboa was destroyed by an arson fire in December. The trailer had been occupied by Gary L. Badertscher, who was in jail awaiting trial on 46 sex-related charges at the time of the blaze. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

THIS TRAILER in Gilboa was destroyed by an arson fire in December. The trailer had been occupied by Gary L. Badertscher, who was in jail awaiting trial on 46 sex-related charges at the time of the blaze. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By RYAN DUNN
STAFF WRITER

GILBOA — The State Fire Marshal’s Office says an arsonist started a fire that destroyed the home of a Putnam County man after he was indicted on 46 felony charges.

Gary L. Badertscher was in custody when the blaze destroyed his Dutchman Travel Trailer at 328 Sugar Ridge Road in Gilboa on Dec. 21, the same day news of his indictment was widely reported.

“It was determined that someone had deliberately ignited combustible materials in the center of the trailer, based on burn patterns and the damage caused,” said Michael Duchesne, a spokesman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The office has completed its investigation unless new information surfaces, Duchesne said. Anyone with additional information on the fire is being asked to call state investigators at 800-589-2728.

Badertscher, 53, has pleaded not guilty to all 46 counts in Putnam County Common Pleas Court. The felony charges include compulsion to involuntary servitude, endangering children, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, pandering sexually-oriented material involving a minor, and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

The indictment alleges Badertscher coerced underage women to be used in sexual material, and possessed child pornography.

Each offense is alleged to have occurred between 2012 and August in Putnam County.

The young women in the case are now safe, Assistant Prosecutor Todd Schroeder has said. He has declined further comment.

Badertscher remains in the Putnam County jail on $100,000 bond. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 90 years in prison if convicted on every count.

A Putnam County Common Pleas Court judge recently approved $3,000 for Badertscher to pay a defense investigator and expert witness. Badertscher is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 28.

Authorities had searched the trailer months before it burned.

A sheriff’s deputy executed a search warrant at the home on Aug. 29. The deputy seized a laptop, smartphone and compact discs from the property, according to a filing in Putnam County Municipal Court.

A relative of Badertscher had alerted law enforcement to an image on Badertscher’s Facebook page, apparently depicting a nude female child, according to the search warrant.

Dunn: 419-427-8417
Send an E-mail to Ryan Dunn
Twitter: @CourierRyan

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