Licking man pleads guilty to Kingdom City arson

Steven Oakley Price, 41, a Licking, Mo., over-the-road truck driver, has pleaded guilty to setting a series of tractor-trailer trucks on fire in six states, including four arson incidents at a Kingdom City truck stop.

On May 11, 2010, a tractor-trailer fire was reported at 9:23 p.m. at the Petro Stopping Center truck stop in Kingdom City.

After Callaway County deputies and firemen from the North Callaway Fire Protection District responded to this fire, a second fire was set across the highway at Gasper’s Truck Plaza in Kingdom City.

When firemen were diverted to Gasper’s truck stop, the third and fourth Kingdom City truck stop fires were set at the Petro truck stop.

Security cameras at the truck stops placed Price near the scene of the four Kingdom City fires and investigators began to suspect him.

Investigators earlier started to believe the arsonist might be a trucker since numerous other fires had been reported earlier at various widely scattered truck stops around the nation.

Since many truck fleets make use of global positioning system (GPS) technology to keep track of trucks through satellite tracking, investigators decided to use this technology to track the past movements of Price.

Price’s employer, Tennant Truck Lines of Orion, Ill., uses GPS technology to track its trucks and drivers.

GPS data stored in a computer showed one trucker, Price, was present at all of the truck stop fires around the nation.

The next truck stop fire was reported on June 23, 2010. A truck parked at a truck stop in Valley Grove, W. Va., was damaged intentionally and the fire was set in the same manner as the other arson fires.

Investigators had been conducting surveillance of Price using GPS data. He was arrested in his truck parked a short distance away from the fire.

During May of 2010, nine arson fires were set under commercial tractor-trailer rigs in Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. In each incident GPS records showed Price’s truck was parked at or near the scene of the fires.

In each case, arson was committed by inserting fuel-soaked clothing, rags or fuel filters in or around the wheel wells of tractor-trailer trucks, most of which were parked and occupied at the time the fires were started.

Price and his attorney arranged a plea-bargain agreement with federal prosecutors Thursday in exchange for a plea of guilty to seven counts of arson.

Under terms of the plea agreement, the government and Price agree to a sentence of eight years in federal prison without parole.

Formal sentencing will occur after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Price admitted he set the fires at truck stops in Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa and Illinois between August of 2009 and June of 2010.

“Fortunately, the victims in this case were not killed or seriously injured by these fires,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Michael P. Gleysteen.

“I can tell you it is such a rewarding feeling for those investigators to see their hard work pay off through a successful prosecution and case disposition,” said Missouri State Fire Marshal Randy Cole.

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