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Man Charged In School Fire Has Criminal Record

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FAYETTEVILLE — There are new questions surrounding the man investigators say is responsible for setting fire to a Cumberland County high school.

Shawn Barnes, 31, a former administrative assistant atPine Forest Senior High Schoolwas released from jail on a $5,000 bond Wednesday afternoon. He is charged in setting a fire at the school early Monday, causing more than $2 million in damage.

According to court records, since 1992, Barnes has been charged and found guilty of possessing stolen goods and a concealed weapon. Both crimes are misdeamenors.

Barnes went to work as a custodian for Pine Forest Principal Tim Farley in 1998. At the time, Farley had no objections.

"Shawn was very dedicated, very loyal, very intelligent," says Pine Forest Principal Tim Farley. "We did our regular paperwork and pushed the paperwork forward. Those types of issues were never brought to my attention," he says.

Cumberland County Schoolsstarted doing criminal background checks on new employees in June 1996, after Barnes was already hired.

"With 6,000 employees, it's not unusual when we do background checks to find employees with traffic offenses and somemisdemeanors," says Sara Piland, spokeswoman for Cumberland County Schools.

Farley says had he known about Barnes criminal record, he would have never have hired him.