WILMINGTON — A Bladen County resident was in a Virginia court Thursday to answer charges that caused him to be terminated from his position as a master firefighter with the Wilmington Fire Department.
Robert T. Hester, 40, remains in the custody of the Fairfax (Va.) Detention Center after being arrested in Loudon County, Va., and charged with intentionally damaging property and felony sexual penetration by force or threat with an inanimate object.
Hester, who has served as a volunteer firefighter with Elizabethtown Fire Department, still resides on Winding Creek Road in Elizabethtown. According to records, local law enforcement has been called to his residence on a number of occasions in the past on reports of domestic violence.
In a letter dated April 15, Wilmington Fire Chief Buddy Martinette terminated Hester’s employment with the city effective April 15, saying the termination was based on Hester’s inability to return to work. The city’s employment policy states that employees cannot have more than three consecutive days of unexcused absences.
According to reports, Hester, who has stated that he was sightseeing in Virginia, was arrested on March 21 on a warrant for the destruction of property at the Hyatt Hotel in Reston, Va., on March 19. The next day, the sex-crime charge was added and stemmed for the accusations of an unnamed 35-year-old woman that police say Hester knows.
At Hester’s court appearance on Thursday, his next court date was set for May 23. He is being held without bond.
According to a city of Wilmington spokesperson, Hester has been employed with the city’s fire department since 2000 at a salary of $39,628. He was stationed at the Seagate Fire Station. The spokesperson has been led to believe that Hester is appealing his termination.
Virginia law states that the crime of inanimate object sexual penetration carries a penalty of five years to life in prison.