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Navy accuses yeoman of setting 2015 blaze

More than three years ago, a yeoman assigned to Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth set fire to an apartment building in nearby Newport News, military prosecutors allege.

Yeoman 2nd Class Charmaine K. March has been charged with aggravated arson for what authorities say was her role in a suspicious blaze at a two-story apartment building in the 900 block of Marcus Drive on Oct. 28, 2015.

She faces court-martial in Norfolk. If convicted, she could be busted to E-1, forfeit all pay and allowances, spend 20 years behind bars and then get booted on a dishonorable discharge.

According to news reports at the time of the blaze, fire crews arriving on the scene found heavy smoke belching from an unoccupied apartment in the two-story structure.

Firefighters initially fought the flames on the second level, but were forced to evacuate the building after a hole burned in the floor, making the entire structure unstable.

They fought the remainder of the fire outside the building. No one was injured and the blaze was under control by 9:54 p.m. that night.

The next day, investigators ruled it a suspicious fire, triggering a three-month probe by the Newport News Fire Marshal’s Office.

On Feb. 10, 2016, civilian authorities arrested and charged March with arson.

But on June 19, 2018, state officials dropped the charge against her, according to Virginia court records.

The Navy picked up the case and charged March on Aug. 8 with violating Article 126 of the the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

She was slated to appear Jan. 17 in a Norfolk military courtroom for a motions hearing on Jan. 17, but that courtroom appearance has been cancelled and has not been rescheduled.

Navy Times reached out to March and her military lawyer for comment through Navy Region Mid-Atlantic and they declined comment through the command.

“Counsel does not wish to speak in advance of court proceedings,” said Navy Region Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Todd. “The accused in this case only has military counsel assigned, so no civilian counsel have been assigned."

According to information from her personnel record provided by the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine, at the time of the alleged incident March was assigned to the Norfolk-based guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto.

She transferred to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth on March 17, 2017.

Originally from Illinois, March joined the Navy in early 2012.

Her initial tour was with the Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington, D.C.

Prior to her sea tour on the warship, she spent nearly two years at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

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