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Man convicted of 2005 blaze

Monday, April 2, 2007

A Federal grand jury recently returned a guilty verdict for a Greencastle resident stemming from a restaurant fire that took place in Cloverdale in December 2005.

Rick Romandine, Greencastle, was found guilty of arson late in March, according to Tim Morrison, First Assistant Attorney of the United States Attorney's Office, Indianapolis.

On Monday, Morrison told the BannerGraphic that the verdict was reached on March 23 after a five-day trial.

He said a sentencing hearing could come within 70 days of the verdict and that Romandine was ordered held pending sentencing.

Romandine now faces 5-20 years in prison. He also faces a fine of $250,000.

Court records indicate that final arguments in the case were made on March 23 and the jury returned with the verdict only hours after final arguments.

Romandine was represented in the case by Stephen W. Dillon and Ross G. Thomas, Indianapolis. Attorney's Joe Vaughn and Matthew Rinka prosecuted the case.

Morrison said Romandine did not testify during the trial.

Romandine had operated Rick's Steakhouse, 5 S. Main St., Cloverdale, for nearly one year before the building was destroyed.

The restaurant included an arcade game room, a bakery and gift shop. The loss of the building and its contents was estimated at nearly $350,000.

A Federal grand jury in Indianapolis had brought an indictment of arson against Romandine in 2006.

Romandine was arrested at his home in Greencastle in the early morning hours of March 3, 2006, by officials from the U.S. Marshals office and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie told the BannerGraphic after Romandine had been arrested that the investigation had centered around the former restaurant owner from the beginning.

As the investigation moved forward, officials learned the business was i financial trouble. Frisbie also told the BannerGraphic at the time that Romandine had an extensive criminal record and other "questionable" fires had surrounded his past.

The fire broke out at the restaurant in the late evening hours of Nov. 13, 2005. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 11:37 p.m., but the building was engulfed by 1:30 a.m., Nov. 14.

Firefighters from Belle Union, Jefferson Township, Greencastle, Brazil, Spencer, Reelsville, Cloverdale Town and Cloverdale Volunteer Township were dispatched to the scene to help fight the blaze.

although no one was injured, the fire caused officials to close off a portion of U.S. 231, which stayed closed for several hours, but was later reopened.

Residents at the nearby Cloverdale Convalescence and Rehabilitation Center were evacuated from the scene sometime around 3;30 a.m. They were transported first to the Cloverdale Middle School, while some were immediately move to Putnam County Hospital. Others were moved to other health care facilities in the area. All residents were returned to the health center later that day.

On Dec. 19, a warrant for business records was served by the ATF to Romandine.

The day after the fire, Romandine told the BannerGraphic he had been contacted by officials between 11:45-11:50 p.m. When he arrived to the scene, he said the building was covered in a cloud of smoke.

"The front of the building was just smoke," he said. "You couldn't see anything in front of the building. It is tragic."

The nearly 100-year-old building was owned by Carl Kelb of High Point Oil, Indianapolis. The restaurant had been in business since January 2005. It was previously Greg's Steakhouse and used to house the J.D. Lumber business.

Posters offering a $5,000 reward for anyone with information leading to a conviction were placed in the area following the declaration of arson. The reward money was to be provided by the International Association of Arson Investigators, Indiana, Chapter 14, in association with the Indiana State Fire Marshal and property insurance companies operating in the state.

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