Something went terribly wrong on Saturday, January 25th when James J. Clemens of Columbus left his friends at a local restaurant and bar in Yellow Springs. Around 4:30 in the morning, Clemens was found nearly two miles off of Rt. 68 at a farm house in the 700 block of West Jackson Road by an alert neighbor.
Michael Taylor who lives in the 300 block of W. Jackson noticed an orange glow coming from his neighbor’s home. When he pulled into the driveway, he saw someone coming out of his neighbor’s house. A young man ran up to the truck telling Taylor he was freezing. According to reports filed with the Clark County Municipal Court, Taylor put Clemens in his truck and drove to his home to call 911.
Clemens is reported to have started a fire to keep warm at the back of the house. He admitted to having been drinking with his friends at the Yellow Springs location. Reports also indicate that Clemens admitted to starting the fire with a lighter that he had in his possession, but did not recall where he was or how he got to the home on Jackson Road. Clemens told the deputy responding to the call that he thought he could control the fire but was unable to do so.
Deputies arriving on the scene attempted to see if anyone was in the house as the owner often would come and go according to Mr. Taylor. Although a vehicle was present on the property, the owner was found to be at another home in Donnelsville.
While fire crews battled the blaze, deputies located the vehicle driven by Clemens around the corner from the farm house. Clemens told deputies that he did not remember driving at all that evening. The vehicle belonging to Clemens father was seriously damaged after striking a pole in the 800 block of W. Jackson Road headed eastbound. Clemens managed to leave the scene despite the fact that both airbags had been deployed. Deputies noted that upon interviewing Clemens later admitted to driving the vehicle and fleeing the scene of the accident.
Clemens has been charged with aggravated arson a second degree felony and aggravated burglary a first degree felony. He appeared in Clark County Municipal Court where he pleaded not guilty to both counts. His preliminary hearing is set for February 3, 2014. He was released on bond.
Clark County Municipal Court records indicate that Clemens plead no contest to open container in his vehicle and driving over 70 MPH in a 55 zone in the 7300 block of Rt 72 in July of 2007. Clemens was residing in Xenia at that time.
The home was a total loss for the owner. The white farm house was reported to have been in the owner’s family for a number of years. No estimate on damages to the structure or loss of contents was available.