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Man charged in connection with rash of curbside fires in Lynchburg
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Man charged in connection with rash of curbside fires in Lynchburg

A Lynchburg man charged in connection with a series of curbside waste fires in Lynchburg earlier in the summer was granted bond Tuesday.

Brennan Thornhill, 19, was arrested Friday on 10 counts of maliciously setting fire to woods, fences or grass and one count of arson.

In his bond hearing Tuesday in Lynchburg General District Court, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Childress said Thornhill was identified as a person of interest involved in 32 fires city responders put out in June. The fires were started on trash and other waste left on the curb to be collected.

Between a citizen video and eyewitness accounts, Childress said investigators determined a suspect vehicle in the fires was a mid-2000s gray Nissan Altima with a few distinct features, including a missing grille and a cross instead of a car make logo.

The suspect captured in a video appeared to be a tall, slender white man with long hair, and one witness identified Thornhill as a suspect.

Thornhill spoke to investigators around the end of June, Childress said, and turned over his phone before receiving a warning and being allowed to leave by police. The fires stopped after that, and police investigated metadata from Thornhill’s phone connected to his work as a meal delivery driver.

In late August, Thornhill was arrested on unrelated indecent exposure charges and was let out of jail on his own recognizance, according to testimony and court records.

One of the fires, which broke out in different parts of the city at all different times of day, spread to a vehicle while another spread to a house, Childress said. He added no charges have yet come out of those more serious fires.

Between the fires and Thornhill’s other charges, Childress said he was concerned Thornhill transitioned to another way to act out. He asked substitute Judge Fred King to deny bond or, if bond was deemed appropriate, to set a significant bond along with mental health evaluation or even inpatient treatment.

Testifying for his son, Arnold Thornhill Jr. said Brennan Thornhill has received mental health treatment for several conditions since his early teens and his therapy had increased in frequency a few years ago. He said the defendant’s family would pay for a home electronic monitoring system to keep tabs on him and could afford a bond.

King said while the charges weren’t violent on their face, there still was significant potential for harm to people involved.

He set a $25,000 secure bond for Thornhill under conditions he remain at his mother’s house under home electronic monitoring paid for by his family, abstain from alcohol or drugs and undergo screening for substances.

Childress said he would consider appealing that decision to a higher court. Thornhill hasn’t yet been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on his charges.

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