Man sentenced to 96 years for role in Elkhart County barn arsons

Joseph Hershberger, 41, of Nappanee
Joseph Hershberger, 41, of Nappanee(Elkhart County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 12:44 PM EST
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A man has been handed down a maximum sentence of 96 years for setting eight barns on fire in Elkhart County in 2021.

Joseph Hershberger, 42, was sentenced on Monday, Nov. 21 after pleading guilty to the charges in October. Due to a plea agreement, Hershberger will spend 50 years of that sentence in prison and the remaining 46 years are suspended to parole.

But Monday’s sentencing was for just eight of at least a dozen barns that burned down from April to October of 2021. Hershberger faces three more arson charges in Kosciusko County in connection to a barn that burned there on April 26 and two more set ablaze on June 10. He is also accused of setting fire to an Amish school in Marshall County.

Sherry Thomas is accused of setting fire to the school and the barns with Hershberger. She faces the same charges in Marshall and Kosciusko Counties. In Elkhart County, she is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on Nov. 28 for the eight arson charges against her.

Neither Hershberger nor Thomas are charged in St. Joseph County. On May 4, 2021, Debbie Schmidt’s barn burned to the ground on Ash Road. It happened just hours after one of the arsons that Hershberger was sentenced for, which happened just over the county line on May 3. 16 News Now Investigates reached out to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office to ask if charges will be filed in connection to that barn burning, but were told there were no updates at this time.