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Rape charge worries county
A volunteer firefighter's arrest on a rape charge worries Spotsylvania officials, frustrates other volunteers.

 Baber
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Date published: 5/17/2011

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

A Spotsylvania County volunteer firefighter was charged over the weekend with raping a 13-year-old girl. Now, county officials want to know how commanding officers of the Chancellor Volunteer Fire Department will respond.

Spotsylvania County Administrator Doug Barnes called for greater accountability from those in charge of the department.

"The question is: How much did the leadership know or not know?" Barnes said yesterday. "And only the leadership knows that."

Justin Neil Baber, 23, was arrested Saturday after the 13-year-old told Spotsylvania investigators she was picked up in a "police-type" vehicle when the May 4 encounter occurred.

Baber was dismissed from the department after its leaders were told of the rape charge on Saturday, said Kevin Dillard, administrative chief for the Chancellor department.

Baber's arrest comes some 15 months after a fatal house fire put the county's combination volunteer and career fire and rescue service under a microscope. Failed efforts to save a woman, who was on her cellphone with a dispatcher, led to a state review of the county's fire, rescue and emergency services system.

In July, 10 members of the Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire Department were terminated for misconduct involving a 17-year-old girl at the station. A 20-year-old firefighter pleaded guilty to assault and battery stemming from that incident.

That month, a Chancellor volunteer fire captain was accused of misconduct with a woman during a training session. In December, he was found not guilty of sexual battery but testified to using "sexual off-color humor" during training.

Now another Chancellor volunteer, besides Baber, is under investigation for sexual misconduct, Spotsylvania Sheriff's Lt. Col. Michael Timm said yesterday. Investigators have executed a search warrant for release of that person's Internet use, he said.

In the case involving Baber, Timm said the 13-year-old girl accidentally texted Baber on May 4 while trying to send a message to a friend.

Baber asked the girl to sneak out of her Spotsylvania home later that evening, according to a Sheriff's Office press release. He met her in a Ford Crown Victoria owned by the Chancellor Volunteer Fire Department. The car has red emergency lights and radio equipment.

Baber was not authorized to drive department vehicles, Dillard said.


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