Barn arsonist behind bars

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SALEM, Ohio – David Klingensmith rests easier now, knowing the man who put him and his neighbors on edge for months and made them fear for their livestock’s safety is behind bars.
Roddy M. Rudkin Jr., 23, was sentenced Oct. 5 to 12 years in the Lorain Correctional Institute, plus five years of parole afterward, for starting fires that destroyed two Trumbull County barns.
Rudkin was charged in the June 24, 2005, fire that torched barns and an entire herd of prize-winning dairy cattle at the Klingensmith farm in Warren Township, as well as the May 17, 2005, fire that killed eight horses and a donkey at the Wade Bascom farm nearby.
Rudkin also accepted aggravated arson, breaking and entering, vandalism and burglary charges for fires he set in seven other vacant homes in the county.
Emotional. Klingensmith gave a statement in the courtroom Oct. 5 before Rudkin was sentenced.
“I told the judge I didn’t think it was right [Rudkin] could come in here and in a few hours take away what I had worked for for 30 years, my career, all the hard work I put in.”
Klingensmith said he also broke down on the stand when he talked about how much those cows meant to him and his family.
“I got choked up. I couldn’t even say everything I wanted to say to [Rudkin],” Klingensmith said.
Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor Charles Morrow said those cows are what eventually led Rudkin to confess to his crimes.
“He said he could hear the cows screaming in his dreams,” Morrow said of Rudkin.
Torture. Rudkin was charged with injuring animals, a misdemeanor, for the livestock that died in both farm blazes.
Fifty-four of Klingensmith’s dairy cows were killed in their tie-stalls, unable to escape, or in the aftermath of the early morning fire in June 2005.
“It was torture. They were tied; some of them hung themselves, some exploded from the heat. You could hear them screaming a quarter-mile away at the neighbors’. It was just a terrible, terrible thing,” Klingensmith said.
Another barn holding 500 large square bales also burned, along with the farm’s skid loader, TMR mixer, new feeding cart and New Holland feed grinder.
Foul play. Klingensmith suspected foul play from the beginning.
When he rushed outside at 2:30 a.m., he noticed open barn doors, he said. He’d just came inside from night milking and knew he’d closed them.
In court proceedings, it was discovered Rudkin had paddled a canoe along the Mahoning River to the banks along the Klingensmith property the night he started the fire, and used that boat as his getaway.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, especially here in Trumbull County,” Morrow said.
Not enough. Tie stalls that were only a month old were charred in the fire, but Klingensmith salvaged and repainted them as part of his rebuilding process.
Klingensmith is back to milking about 55 head in a new barn and anticipates within the next few months shipping the same amount of milk he was before the fire.
“It’s stressful to rebuild, and with all this extra work we’ve had to do,” Klingensmith said, noting the farm’s damages topped $500,000. At the time of the fire, the Klingensmith family was nearly debt-free.
The court also ordered Rudkin to pay $1 million in restitution for the arsons.
Klingensmith said he’s considering filing civil charges to recover at least a portion of that money, but knows Rudkin has nothing to lose.
“The victims never think the sentence is enough. All I suppose I’ll ever get is the satisfaction that he will do some time.”
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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