Defendant in arson involved in estate battle
WOODSTOCK — Four defendants indicted on arson-related charges have been arrested in a case involving a barn fire on property that is at the center of a probate dispute.
The four defendants face a total of 17 felony counts.
In a news release issued Friday, Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David Ferguson identified the defendants as Dolly Jean Wimer and Robert Dale Wimer, both of 176 Brannertown Lane, Mount Jackson, and Robert Lee Price and Cindy Marie Price, both of 157 Brannertown Lane, Mount Jackson.
The address is identified in Shenandoah County Circuit Court documents as part of the Raymond H. Wine estate. Wine’s estate has been the subject of a bitter court battle between Dolly Wimer, Wine’s caretaker and sole beneficiary named in his will, and Wine’s sister, Anna Johnston.
Johnston obtained a court order from Judge Dennis L. Hupp in 2013 that resulted in Wine’s body being exhumed and later examined at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas.
The Medical Examiner’s report filed in April 2014 concluded that Wine died of heart disease and the manner of death was natural.
Ferguson said the four defendants were living at the same address, 176 Brannertown Lane, at the time of the fire on July 27. The two couples have since moved to separate addresses near each other on the same road as the site of the fire.
Ferguson said the fire began at 12:26 a.m. across from 157 Brannertown Lane, which, like the barn, is part of the Wine estate.
The fire destroyed the 9,200 square foot barn, which housed a tractor. Ferguson said the barn was insured for $60,000 and the tractor for $40,000.
Ferguson refused to discuss a motive for the fire or how it started. The barn was unoccupied at the time.
Ferguson said all four defendants are out on bail. Cindy Price was arrested at her residence and Robert Price was arrested in Augusta County, Ferguson said. Dolly and Robert Wimer turned themselves in at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, Ferguson said.
The arrests came after an 11-month investigation and indictments handed up by a Shenandoah County grand jury on June 5.
Ferguson said authorities used the 11 months that elapsed between the fire and the indictments to assemble a variety of evidence, much of it obtained outside the fire scene.
“Processing the scene is one aspect of the investigation and is not usually the most time consuming,” Ferguson said. “But collecting dates, reports, documentation and so forth is the most time consuming.
“In the past 11 months, our office has been collecting data, analyzing it, and reviewing it and so forth and that led to us being able to indict all four of them.”
The fire was one of many recorded in Shenandoah County in spring and summer of last year. Ferguson said it is unrelated to the others.
“There were a large number of fires in Maurertown, Strasburg, and Bryce,” Ferguson said. “Last year, we definitely got inundated with fires. A lot of them were accidental. This is one we’re putting closure to.”
Dolly Wimer was listed as Dolly McAvoy in the court documents pertaining to the probate case, but Ferguson said they are the same person. Parts of the case were heard in Rockingham County Circuit Court and Shenandoah County Circuit Court.
Wine, 94, died on July 7, 2011 after suffering cardiac arrest at Living Waters Home for Adults in Timberville.
In a court document replying to Johnston’s request to have Wine’s body exhumed, Wimer, through her attorney, denied “there is any reasonable cause to believe that foul play was involved in the death of Raymond Wine.”
Court documents filed by Johnston’s attorney, Brian Brake, say Wine granted Wimer power of attorney in 2007 and identified her as sole beneficiary in a will drawn up in 2008. Brake has estimated the value of the 227-acre farm that Wine deeded to Wimer to be worth $1 million to $2 million.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org