Man arrested in barn burning investigation has history with Syracuse FD

Joseph Hershberger and Sherry Thomas
Joseph Hershberger and Sherry Thomas(Elkhart County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 4:37 PM EST
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A second arrest has been made in connection to the string of barn fires in Elkhart County.

Joseph Hershberger, 41, of Nappanee was charged with arson Tuesday. And now, his 32-year-old girlfriend Sherry Thomas, also of Nappanee, is in custody as well.

Hershberger is facing eight counts of arson for all eight barn fires we’ve told you about extensively in Elkhart County dating back to April (links to stories at the bottom). He also faces one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

As for Thomas, she faces one count of arson, and one count of attempted contributing to a delinquency of a minor.

Court papers show that investigators we’re able to track a phone that had been in the area of the barn fires just prior to each one being set off. Investigators later learned that phone belonged to Thomas, placing her phone at every barn fire, except one.

Two people have been arrested in the string of Michiana barn burnings we've kept you up to date...
Two people have been arrested in the string of Michiana barn burnings we've kept you up to date on.(Elkhart Superior Court)

Documents say Thomas admitted to police to being with Hershberger when he started fires in Elkhart County on April 13, July 28, and on Oct. 1. Thomas also admitted that Hershberger tried to convince her 11-year-old son to start one of the fires.

Investigators say they were able to get surveillance video from a gas station that placed Thomas with Hershberger buying a half gallon of gas at two different locations.

Documents say Hershberger did admit to starting some of the fires, but they also say he and Thomas would take turns lighting the barns ablaze.

Formal charges are expected are be filed by the end of this week for both Hershberger and Thomas. Hershberger is being held on $500,000 bond. His initial hearing is set for Dec. 10. As for Thomas, 16 News Now is still waiting to find out when she will be expected in court.

16 News Now Producer & Investigative Journalist Carli Luca has followed the string of barn fires in Michiana extensively. Barn fires featured in first investigative piece that aired July 8: 16 News Now Investigates: Barn Burnings

  • April 13 - 69000 block of County Road 13, Elkhart County
  • April 27 - 4000 block of W 1250 N, Kosciusko County
  • April 27 - 70000 block of County Road 29, Elkhart County
  • May 3 - 61000 block of County Road 1, Elkhart County
  • May 4 - 63000 block of Ash Road, St. Joseph County
  • June 10 - W 1300 N and N 700 W, Kosciusko County
  • June 10 - W 1150 N and W Moore Road, Kosciusko County

Barn fires featured in second investigative piece that aired Nov. 18: 16 News Now Investigates: Who’s Burning Our Barns?

  • Sept. 9 - Beech and Tyler Roads, Marshall County (3 separate barns)
  • Sept. 18 - 25000 block of County Road 38, Elkhart County
  • Sept. 19 - 62000 block of County Road 9, Elkhart County
  • Oct. 1 - 72000 block of County Road 43, Elkhart County
  • Oct. 1 - 13000 block of County Road 48, Elkhart County

Stay with 16 News Now as we continue to follow this developing story.

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