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Man who pleaded guilty to torching Indiana barns receives 50 years in prison

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A man who pleaded guilty to torching several barns last year in a northern Indiana county was sentenced Monday to 50 years in prison followed by decades on probation.

An Elkhart County judge sentenced Joseph Hershberger to 96 years, but suspended nearly half of that sentence, ordering Hershberger to serve 46 years on probation following his release. He must also pay $80,000 in fines.

Hershberger, 42, pleaded guilty in October to eight counts of arson while admitting that he set fire to eight Elkhart County barns.

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Garry Weybright, whose 120-year-old barn was among those destroyed, testified Monday about the pain caused by the October 2021 loss of his family’s beloved, longtime barn.

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“Watching the barn burn in the middle of the night felt like my soul, heart and spirit, and the family’s soul, was being ripped from me and us,” he told the court.

Hershberger’s girlfriend, Sherry Thomas, was also charged last year in Elkhart County with eight counts of arson in the barn fires. Her case is still pending but she appears to be nearing a plea agreement with prosecutors, the South Bend Tribune reported.

Hershberger still faces pending arson charges in Marshall and Kosciusko counties for additional fires he allegedly set in those counties. Authorities allege that Thomas was also involved with setting those fires.

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