Trucker pleads guilty to truck stop arsons

A trucker has pleaded guilty to seven counts of arson at truck stops in six states, a crime authorities say he usually committed on occupied parked trucks.

Steven Oakley Price, 41, of Licking, Mo. pleaded guilty Dec. 1 in the U. S. District Court for Missouri’s western district. If the court accepts Price’s plea agreement, he will serve an eight-year federal prison term without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the federal probation office’s presentence investigation ends.

Price inserted fuel-soaked clothing, rags or fuel filters into the wheel wells of tractor-trailers in Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa and Illinois between August 2009 and June 2010. No serious injuries occurred, according to the district’s U.S. attorney.

Law enforcement identified him as a suspect after they observed him during several fires at a Kingdom City, Mo. truck stop.

His employer, Illinois-based Tennant Truck Lines, assisted investigators in using the company’s GPS to track Price’s truck. Between August 2009 and June 2010, his truck was placed either at or near each fire and in one case, immediately adjacent to the burned truck.

On June 23, 2010, a truck fire was set at a Valley Grove, W.Va., truck stop with the method used in the previous arsons. Investigators were conducting surveillance of Price using GPS data and arrested him in his truck parked close to the fire.

A year before a Jefferson City, Mo., jury returned a seven-court indictment, which replaced a previous indictment from July and added five additional counts of arson.

The indictments included a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Law enforcement stated they had found Price possessed a bolt-action rifle in Texas County, Mo., the previous June. Federal law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony to possess a firearm or ammunition and he had prior felony convictions for arson, theft burglary and hot check personal services, they said.