Trial date set in Strasburg firefighters’ cases

WOODSTOCK – Six members of the Strasburg Fire Department accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor are scheduled to go on trial April 5.

Judge Kevin Black also expanded the language of all six charges Thursday to read, “contributed to the delinquency of a minor or engaged in consensual sex with a child aged 15 or older that is not a spouse, child or grandchild.”

However, according to the search warrant executed in April 2017 as part of the investigation, the victim’s mother provided authorities with screen shots of text messages in which the victim indicated that the alleged sex with Fabian Jorge Sosa, one of the accused firefighters, was not consensual.

Also accused were Nathan Scott Hirschberg, 26, of Winchester; Andrew Steven Key, 24, of Strasburg; Dale Ray King, 36, of Strasburg; Bradly A. Markin, 21, of Strasburg; and Christopher Lee Pangle, 32, of Woodstock.

The Strasburg Fire Department broke its silence on the investigation Wednesday evening, disclosing in a news release that each of the accused members was put on administrative leave as soon as the department learned the details of the case.

The release also stated that one of the accused was no longer a department member when the warrant was unsealed, and indicated that there was a seventh member involved in the investigation.

“At that time, the leadership of the Strasburg Fire Department immediately placed every member involved on administrative leave; suspending them from all duties with the department, including emergency responses,” the release stated. “One of the original six individuals was no longer a member of the Department. Law enforcement subsequently notified the Department of charges against another member.”

The release also raised a discrepancy with the original search warrant.

The warrant stated that one of the three locations at which an alleged rape occurred was at the Strasburg Fire Department Company 51, 163 E. King St. The release, however, stated that “none of the allegations or events occurred on the property of the Strasburg Fire Department.”

Glenn Mason, president of the department’s board of directors, did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Sergeant F. L. “Les” Tyler of the Virginia State Police could not explain the discrepancy between the search warrant and the department’s press release.

“I cannot discuss the findings of the investigation at this time,” Tyler said. “From what I understand, the only connection that they (the accused) had with the fire department were they were members of the fire department. That was our official statement earlier on in the investigation.”

Conrad Helsley, chairman of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, said the accusations against the volunteer firefighters are concerning.

“I would think that they (the allegations) would pose a concern to all citizens in Strasburg,” he said. “Even though they are at this point allegations, that is a concern.

“There’s an absolute necessity that the leadership of (the department) and the leadership in Strasburg government need to have an eyeball-to-eyeball talk.”

Strasburg Mayor Rich Orndorff plans to have an in-person chat along with the leadership of the Fire Department after he meets with the full Town Council to clear up some outstanding questions and come up with a consensus plan.

“Moving forward, how do we keep this kind of thing from happening again? Is the Fire Department able to deliver adequate fire protection? How do we ensure that they are, administratively, that they are run well?” Orndorff said. “As a council, we’ll have some recommendations, and as a council, we’ll decide how to proceed.”

Orndorff said he hopes to meet with the council by the end of the month, and then to sit down and talk with the Fire Department leaders “shortly thereafter.”

If found guilty, the accused members of the Strasburg Fire Department each face up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.