A West Virginia man accused of firing shots at a tractor-trailer earlier this year and setting fire to a vehicle used by his girlfriend this week turned himself in to state police.
Thomas Michael Ayers, 32, of Bethany, was arraigned before District Judge Ethan Ward on charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment for allegedly firing shots at the truck April 14. He also was arraigned on charges of arson and criminal mischief for setting fire to a sport utility vehicle at a home in Hopewell Township early Wednesday morning.
Ayers reportedly admitted his involvement in both incidents earlier this week to an acquaintance in the Brooke County, W.Va., sheriff’s department.
He then told the same to state police investigators when they interviewed him earlier this week.
State police were called late April 14 to Route 844 west in Independence Township, about a quarter-mile from the West Virginia state line, for a report of a road rage incident.
Clyde Edward Trout of Mingo Junction, Ohio, was operating a tractor-trailer hauling crude oil for Ergon Trucking when a man in a dark Jeep passed him on Route 844.
Trout told state police the driver of the Jeep then put on his brakes.
Trout was forced to move over to the oncoming lane to avoid a collision.
Trout told police the driver of the Jeep would slow down and speed up, preventing him from pulling over to the westbound lane.
The driver of the Jeep then fired three shots at Trout’s rig, hitting the right fuel tank strap, cab steps and right front tire.
Trout stopped because of the flat tire while the driver of the Jeep fled. The trucker described the Jeep as having a lift kit with large, oversized tires. After learning of Ayers’ identity from the sheriff’s department employee, state police went to his home and found a dark blue Jeep Wrangler with a lift kit and oversize tires.
Ayers told state police the rig pulled out on Route 50 in front of him and he had to slow down.
Ayers told police the rig pulled beside his vehicle and both stopped, with Ayers’ vehicle in the westbound lane and the tractor-trailer in the eastbound lane facing west. Ayers admitted to firing shots at the tractor-trailer before fleeing the scene.
Ayers is also accused of setting fire to a 2001 Ford Explorer his girlfriend, Bonnie Jo Metz (Hilderbrand) would drive while it was parked at 336 Fox Road, Hopewell Township.
The vehicle is owned by Thomas F. Atchison.
Metz told police she and Ayers were fighting via text messages because she wanted to retrieve some items from his home, but he would not let her.
She told police some of the items that were burned in the vehicle fire were items she wanted to get back from Ayers. He told police he placed the boxes on the hood of the vehicle. He then reportedly broke the window on the Explorer and set the seat on fire. Ayers reportedly told the sheriff’s department employee what he had done immediately after the fire, police stated in court documents.
Ayers was placed in Washington County jail on $250,000 for the assault-related charges and $100,000 on the arson charges. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 20 in Central Court.