Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
Residents of Accomack County, Virginia, were living in terror during a 142-day period when buildings and structures were mysteriously being set ablaze. Almost every night, another property was set on fire, and it took authorities months to find any real answers.
According to the new book “American Fire,” per the Daily Mail, officials were stretched to the limit trying to solve such a longstanding crime spree. Firefighters were reportedly forced to sleep at the station instead of their homes, while police officers resorted to night-long stake-outs monitoring properties that could fall victim to the arsonists.
The fires first started in November 2012 with one unassuming house; they then didn’t stop for the next five months.Screenshot/WTKR
According to reports, neighbors began losing trust in one another and, not knowing who the culprits were, became more and more suspicious.
But on April 2, 2013, a man and woman — Charles Robert Smith III and his girlfriend, Tonya Susan Bundick — were finally caught in the act. As they were setting an abandoned house on fire in Melfa, Virginia, police were able to apprehend them.
Smith was an auto mechanic with a reported drug addiction struggle. In a strange twist of irony, he previously served as the captain of the Tasley Volunteer Fire Department. Bundick was a stay-at-home mother of two.
As “American Fire” reports, via the Daily Mail, he met Bundick at a local hotspot, and the two soon became inseparable. They quickly became engaged, but money was always an issue. “American Fire” reads:
They were broke, they were isolated from their families. They were low on work, and they were going to the Food Lion and they were eating garbage.
However, money wasn’t what motivated them to light an entire community ablaze. Instead, it was their actual relationship — or rather, their reported lack of intimacy. Smith reportedly told police:
“The moment I fell in love with her, my d**k stopped working.”
Because Smith couldn’t physically satisfy Bundick, he attempted to satisfy one of her other requests…
Bundick reportedly had an unprecedented request one November night as the two were driving past a house:
“I want you to set that house on fire.”
According to reports, Smith agreed but didn’t actually set a fire. When Bundick went back to see what was left of the house, pleased by the idea of it, she quickly realized Smith never actually lit it on fire.
She reportedly brought Smith back to the home to go through with the arson, saying:
“Never send a man to do a woman’s job.”
From that day on, they didn’t look back.
After they were arrested, Smith quickly pleaded guilty to the crimes; however, he maintained that Bundick had nothing to do with it — that is, until he was informed she began seeing someone else while he was behind bars.
After their trial, they were convicted of burning down 67 buildings and structures. Smith was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and Bundick was sentenced to 17 years.Screenshot/WTKR
Although they began the slew of fires to seemingly stay together, they’ll be separated for quite some time.