Man pleads guilty to killing stepfather in fiery explosion in Miami County

TROY — A St. Paris man pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges including aggravated murder and aggravated arson in a Feb. 12 explosion and fire at a Laura house in which his stepfather was critically injured and later died.

Seth Zackary Ryan Johnson, 25, could face up to life in prison without parole in the acts leading to the death of Jack Noble, 58. Noble died later in February.

Credit: Miami County Jail

Credit: Miami County Jail

Johnson was scheduled to go on trial next week in Miami County Common Pleas Court on the murder and arson charges along with an assault of a police officer charge in a separate incident.

He agreed, instead, to plead guilty as charged as part of a plea agreement in which prosecutors will recommend all sentences be served concurrently and a prison term of 30 years to life.

Public defender Steve King told Judge Jeannine Pratt the defense would reserve the right to ask for either life in prison without parole eligibility for 20 years or 25 years.

Before accepting the pleas, Pratt noted that Johnson earlier was found competent to stand trial and not insane at the time of the offenses.

The explosion occurred around midnight in the western Miami County village. Neighbors told investigators they heard an explosion and looked or went outside to see a vehicle driving quickly from the area of the house. At least two reported seeing Noble come from the house on fire. One said he told him he was getting ready for bed when he lit a cigarette, and the house blew up.

The witnesses said Noble told them the fire was started by his stepson and said they had a dispute involving attempted theft of his money, according to investigators’ reports.

The report included a detective’s visit to the fire scene with a state fire marshal’s office investigator where they saw an air hose and a water hose that had been taped together. One hose appeared to have been connected to a propane tank line into the garage. That hose was connected to the water hose that extended through a garage door into the house deck and then through a window. A portion of the hose was found inside the house.

Pratt accepted Johnson’s guilty pleas and ordered a presentence investigation. The sentencing will be Sept. 19.

Johnson remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

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