ELKTON — Prosecutors dropped an arson case against one defendant and tabled another against his co-defendant on Friday — some five months after one of them gave answers in a polygraph pre-test for a police officer job that implicated them in the arson of a Chesapeake City-area home back in 2007.
Assistant State’s Attorney Patricia A. Fitzgerald stetted the case against Zachary Thomas Yingling, 26, of Middletown, Del., and dropped the companion case against Yingling’s co-defendant, Christopher Steven King, 27, of Smyrna, Del., during a brief hearing in front of Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes.
During the proceeding, Fitzgerald did not give a reason for stetting and dismissing the arson cases. After the hearing, the prosecutor declined to give an explanation for the state’s action to the Cecil Whig.
Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.
In the stetted, or inactive docket, case, the state could elect to prosecute Yingling at any time during the next three years. During the first year, the state could prosecute Yingling without explanation. However, during the next two years, the state would have to convince a judge that good cause exists to prosecute Yingling.
Investigators with the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office charged Yingling with first-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning and third-degree burglary on April 1, after Yingling allegedly implicated King — and himself — in a confession he made during a polygraph pre-test while seeking a police officer position with the Elkton Police Department, according to Cecil County District Court records, which noted that Yingling took the lie detector test at the Maryland State Police North East Barrack.
(A Cecil County grand jury later indicted Yingling on those same three charges.)
Yingling allegedly admitted to intentionally setting fire to a mobile home at 2950 Old Telegraph Road, south of Chesapeake City, on Oct. 19, 2007, a blaze that caused approximately $40,000 in damage to house owned by Dewanna Olvera and contents inside of it, court records show.
“During the polygraph examination pre-test, (Yingling) admitted to breaking into and setting fire to the (mobile home),” Deputy State Fire Marshal Howard F. Ewing, the charging officer, wrote in his statement of probable cause.
In addition, according to court records, Yingling identified King as his accomplice, spurring a follow-up investigation that led to a Cecil County grand jury indictment charging King with first-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning and two conspiracy charges mirroring those counts.
On April 9, accompanied by his defense lawyer, King surrendered himself at the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office in the Cecil County District Courthouse in Elkton.
King was released on personal recognizance while Yingling posted a $20,000 unsecured bond on April 1 — the day of his arrest — to gain his pretrial freedom, court records show.