ELKTON, Md. — They had left their home on Bruce Street in Elkton to go kayaking over the Fourth of July extended weekend when Abe Hughes and his girlfriend learned of the fire.
"Somebody had called us,” said Hughes. “I'm not entirely sure who, but we got a message that some stuff was on fire at the house, so we loaded up our kayaks and got back here as fast as we could."
They discovered a huge pile of charred dressers, clothing and shoes from a make-shift bonfire in their front yard that had drawn firefighters and police to the scene.
It turns out Hughes wasn't the only man of the house.
36-year-old Dustin Miller told state fire marshals that he learned his girlfriend was cheating on him, and when he came to the house to confront her, he found out Hughes and the woman had left to spend the day together on the water.
Miller discovered the other man's clothing in the house and dragged a pair of chests of drawers filled with clothing outside to burn them on the lawn as two teenage boys looked on helplessly from inside the home.
"He did take measures to prevent destruction of the house,” said Emily Witty of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. “He had a garden hose out, and he was very cooperative with our deputies, but we pretty much figured the cause out right away. He used a cigarette lighter and gasoline to light the clothes on fire, and he was under arrest within a few hours after the investigation."
A distraught Miller later told investigators, "I know I screwed up" and even the new man in his old girlfriend's life is withholding judgment on her ex who continued to share a home and children with her, even though he apparently no longer had a place in her heart.
"Because the children are there, I can't interfere with his relationship with them so I can't," Hughes said.
"All you know is your stuff got burned up?" we asked.
"Yes, I lost a lot of stuff," he replied.
Miller faces charges of second-degree malicious burning, reckless endangerment and destruction of property. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of more than six years behind bars.