MH man charged with arson in the ’90s back in court

A Mountain Home man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the late 1990s for setting a series of fires appeared in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday and entered a guilty plea to drug charges filed against him last year.Fifty-six-year-old Andrew Esposito will be sentenced March 14th.Esposito had been on parole until late March 2018 on the arson cases. He was arrested about a month later when Mountain Home police responded to a call alleging a woman was attempting to obtain narcotics. The woman was reported to be in a vehicle with Missouri license plates. When two Mountain Home officers arrived on the scene, they saw the female in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

A man -- identified as Esposito -- was in the driver's seat.

The woman, 34-year-old Crystal Sanford, was said to have immediately blurted out she and Esposito were not trying to sell hydrocodone pills.

Sanford was given six years probation after pleading guilty to the charges related to the incident. She also faced charges stemming from a reported theft from a home where she had been allowed to stay and was given 10 years probation in that case. A petition to revoke her probation was filed early this month alleging she had violated the terms and conditions of her probation in a number of ways.

The two officers reported Esposito was "very nervous and making excited movements." The officers observed a small pouch in Esposito's lap. When asked what he had in it, Esposito said he didn't know because he had found the pouch.

When an officer picked up the pouch, he reported immediately recognizing the shape of a glass smoking pipe used for ingesting drugs.

After the discovery, Esposito was arrested. A search turned up a syringe in Esposito's right pants pocket. Another syringe with about 30 CCs of a clear liquid field testing positive for methamphetamine was located, along with a pill bottle belonging to Sanford containing more methamphetamine.

In addition, hydrocodone and Alprazolam pills were found.

A motion to suppress evidence in Esposito's drug-related case was denied by Circuit Judge John Putman in early November last year.

In the late 1990s, Esposito was sent to prison after pleading guilty to setting a series of fires, including one at a Mountain Home motel were he was staying at the time, an apartment complex and several homes.

He was initially charged with attempt to commit capital murder for setting fire to a house knowing the resident was in the structure. The charge was eventually dropped by the state.

Prior to entering his plea in the arson cases, Esposito underwent a psychological examination and was found fit to proceed. He claimed he suffered brain damage when hit by a moving train about four years prior to the time of his arrest in connection with the fires.

In court records, Esposito said one reason he set the blazes was to see fire trucks and police cars, which he said was "exciting."

The records indicate Esposito had a significant history of conduct problems, including allegedly setting his own house on fire when he was 9 years old.

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