Copeland tells arsonists the affect of their actions on family, community

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Devon Radcliff and Curtis Taulbee will have to wait until April 21st to hear their fate for the May 2016 burglary and arson of Valley Supply Hardware Store in Rising Sun.

The two 20-year olds had their sentencing hearings before Ohio County Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey on Tuesday, April 4th.

Humphrey heard testimony first in the Radcliff case then concerning Taulbee.

Both have pleaded guilty to burglary and arson of the store.

Shannon Henson, owner of Smoke on the Water in Rising Sun, spoke as a character witness for Radcliff. She said she found his actions “so out of character.” Radcliff had written her a letter expressing remorse but never said why he did it.

His attorney submitted a letter asking forgiveness and apologizing for his actions.

Judy Copeland read a prepared statement by her and her husband Gary, owners of the 50 year old business.

“Gary and I will never be the same because of the impact on our lives since your foolish act,” she said to both defendants.

The action caused stress to their three children and spouses and their son Bryan and his family lived just 50 feet away.

“You affected the lives of your co-workers… The fire affected all of their lives because they lost their jobs and income,”Copeland told Devon. There were 11 employees, mostly part-time.

The community was affected as Valley Supply has donated tens of thousands of dollars in support throughout the community.

Copeland pointed out that other lives (fire and emergency response personnel) were endangered.

“For 12 extremely long days and nights, we didn’t know who did this terrible act against us. We were definitely afraid for our lives and our families safety. This went on until we knew you were in jail,” Copeland added.

The Copelands are each 70-years-old and too old to start another big project like building a hardware store.

Judy Copeland verified photos of the store before and after the fire. She commented on a photo of Radcliff and another employee standing in the front door, looking at the devastation inside.

“Gary and I wonder what was going through your mind while you were standing there?” she said,. “Were you asking yourself What have I done? Or were you saying, That was such a great time- robbing the store and then setting this place on fire.”

The two defendants and the Copelands have reached a compromise on the restitution. Radcliff and Taulbee will pay a combined $50,000 to the Copelands once they are released.

Deputy Prosecutor Joe Kaiser acknowledged that the actual amount of damage is much higher. The exterior shell of the building still stands but the insurance company will not cover that cost of demolition, which Kaiser estimated at $76,500. Along with the loss of stock, the total loss could exceed $100,000. Nearly a year later and the Copelands are still dealing with the insurance company.

Christopher Broderick was the Indiana State Fire Marshal arson investigator in the case. He told the court that they attempted to start the fire 18 times using starting gel and motor oil found in the store. After that didn’t work, they retrieved a five-gallon can of gasoline from outside to pour on the floor.

Radcliff has said that the fire made a loud “whoosh” sound as it took. “He’s lucky he made it out alive,” said Broderick reviewed 31 photo exhibits ranging from the interior before the fire and a range of photos, including the area of origin and Copeland’s office. Many years of records and personal items were destroyed.

The investigator reported that both defendant drew maps of the interior of the building and their attempt to set the fire.He also testified that the building was a total loss.

Humphrey asked for clarification on pour patterns which Broderick said was eight foot long by three foot wide leading toward the back loading dock.

Taulbee testified that he had been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and pervasive development disorder.

Taulbee’s attorney Leslie Votaw questioned him and reviewed mental health records dating back to 2002 along with doctor reports from September 2004-05.

He was charged with battery and criminal mischief at age nine, spent a year in a children’s home and had a 2010 battery charge against his mom.

Taulbee reported having counseling until 2012 when his father said he didn’t need to be on medication.

In 2015, while living with Radcliff’s family, he attempted to hang himself. In 2016, he tried to kill himself again by an overdose with Tylenol.

He has been receiving therapy twice a week while in jail and has been on suicide watch once while there.

Taulbee told the prosecutor that he was not offering his mental illness as an excuse.

Taulbee said the two had discussed stealing from the store a week before the fire.

That night, Taulbee said, he was drinking when he got a text from Radcliff and drove to pick him up. Taulbee testified to taking drills, cords, tools, and more. They took the items to his car in the cemetery then returned to set the fire.

He thought about making a profit off of some of the items but said they were spooked and did not want to leave any evidence.

Taulbee told the court that he and Devon then drove to Aurora. They returned and went by the store, where firefighters were still on the scene.

Taulbee read an apology to the Copelands in court.

“If you can see the remorse and sorrow in my heart for the things I’ve done,” he said. “A ripple effect was caused by a couple stupid decisions. Gary and Judy, I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart.”

He also apologized to firefighter Bobby White who was injured in the fire.

“We were young, stupid, looking for a good time. We weren’t worried about the consequences,” said Taulbee.

There were no closing arguments as the judge took the case under advisement. Each side can submit written memorandums within 10 days.

“Consider the sentence that he passed on to us when he took from us the business that took 50 years of our lives to build,” Judy Copeland, concluded her comments to the judge.

In other action, the two pleaded guilty to burglary of a concession stand at the Rising Sun-Ohio County Schools athletic fields had been heavily damaged and candy was taken. Their plea agreements on that separate case include $1,154.95 to be paid to the school district and $1,154.96 to the city of Rising Sun.