Man accused of shooting tractor-trailer, burning vehicle to stand trial

August 28, 2014
Thomas Ayers

Two cases against a West Virginia man accused of firing shots at a tractor-trailer and setting fire to a vehicle used by his girlfriend will proceed to court.

Thomas Michael Ayers, 32, of Bethany, appeared before District Judge Robert Redlinger Wednesday for a preliminary hearing in Washington County Central Court.

Ayers is accused of firing shots at a truck April 14, and was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

He was also charged with arson and criminal mischief for allegedly setting fire to a sport utility vehicle at a home in Hopewell Township earlier this month.

Ayers reportedly admitted his involvement in both incidents to an acquaintance in the Brooke County, W.Va., sheriff’s department.

He then told the same to state police investigators when interviewed.

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.

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.

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 burned in the vehicle fire were items she wanted to get back from Ayers.

Ayers remains in the Washington County jail in lieu of bond.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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