Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Judge certifies charge against firefighter
A burglary charge against a Ladysmith volunteer firefighter was certified today and will be sent to a grand jury in March.
Judge Frank L. Benser found probable cause that Herbert “John” Oates, 33, of Ruther Glen entered a home without permission of a woman whom he had met several years ago when her house was on fire.
Two assault charges and a stalking charge against him were dropped in Caroline County General District Court.
The woman, a 28-year-old Spotsylvania County native who now lives in Caroline, testified today that she first remembered seeing Oates on Oct. 20 at a gas station in Ladysmith. She said he walked up to her and knew her full name and physical address.
This alarmed her, she said, but he explained by saying he was a firefighter and had helped put out a fire at her home a few years ago. Fire dispatch records show that a kitchen fire occurred at her home in November 2007.
The woman didn’t remember him, but they had a short, friendly conversation and exchanged phone numbers.
The woman said Oates called her repeatedly over the next few days and showed up at her house unannounced with beer on Oct. 22.
She said she let him in and they talked at the kitchen table, but as the night went on, she testified that he began to make advances at her and tried to touch her aggressively and inappropriately to a point that she was frightened, and had to force him to leave.
She testified that he came to her house again the next day. She said when she saw him outside in her yard, she immediately ran and hid in a kitchen closet hoping he wouldn’t see her.
She testified that he opened the screen door and walked inside her house without permission and started going through her things.
“Then he started talking to himself,” she told the judge.
When he went out the back doot to look for her, she called a security guard in her gated neighborhood, who called police.
The security guard, Johnny Gutridge III, testified that when he arrived at the home, he found Oates up the stairs in the woman’s house.
When Gutridge asked him what he was doing there, he testified that Oates told him he was there to check on the woman and to bring her some chicken.
Gutridge said Oates was cooperative, but didn’t have any chicken with him and his pass to get into the neighborhood was to visit a brother, not the woman.
Oates declined to comment after court today.
Oates has been a career firefighter and EMT in Hanover County since November 2009. He has been a volunteer firefighter and EMT in Ladysmith for 10 years.
Caroline County Fire-EMS Chief David Layman said Oates is on administrative leave pending the outcome of his case, which is standard procedure.