Va. firefighter charged with stalking, assaulting woman 3 years after fire at her home

A bizarre case of alleged stalking has landed a career firefighter behind bars in Virginia.


The man helped put out a fire at a woman's house in rural Caroline County three years ago.

That encounter allegedly sparked a criminal obsession, with the man then keeping tabs on the woman for years, and eventually breaking into her home and assaulting her.

The fire broke out at a home inside a secure community in Ruther Glen, Virginia three years ago. Herbert Oates, 33, responded with other firefighters from the Ladysmith Fire Department.

After closely monitoring both the home and the occupant for years, Oates allegedly returned a few days ago and assaulted the woman inside her home.

Laura Henderson says she bumped into Oates at a gas station a few weeks ago. Though she didn't remember him, she says he shocked her with his intimate knowledge of her personal life.

Oates allegedly then began repeatedly calling Henderson, going to her house, eventually breaking in and roughing her up.

Oates' grandmother, Barbara Oates, says he's innocent. She says Oates lives with her since he separated from his wife, and that he's incapable of committing the crimes with which he is charged.

"I think she is a drama queen," Barbara Oates said. "I think she is just out to stage things and to hurt people.... Herbert John Oates is a good Christian man. I would swear before God Almighty that this boy has not done anything that he has been accused of."

But Oates faces an array of charges and news of the case is spreading through the rural community.

Oates is on leave from the fire department.

He's out on bond, but he'll be back in court in the coming weeks to face breaking and entering, assault, and stalking charges.

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