Local man charged in January arsons

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

April 25, 2008 - A 21-year-old Sulphur Springs man remained in custody Friday morning on two felony counts of arson following more than three months of investigation by fire officials.

He is alleged to have deliberately caused a fire at 424 Church St. and in a storage building on the corner of Houston and League Streets, both within a block of the other and one week apart in January.

Charlie James Williams, 21, of Sulphur Springs was arrested at 6:07 p.m. Thursday at his Cottonwood Street residence by Sulphur Springs Police officer Pat Leber and Sulphur Springs Fire Investigator David James on the two second-degree felony warrants for arson.

He remained in jail today in lieu of $25,000 bond per charge.

"This is due to the diligent police work by Fire Investigator David James," SSFD Chief Gerry Cleaver said Friday morning.

The first fire, which occurred the night of Jan. 6 on Church Street, was contained to a detached garage area of a house which had been converted to a dentist's office but was vacant at the time of the fire.

A woman passing by at 10 p.m. that evening noticed the fire at Church Street and Cottonwood Streets. She went directly to the city's nearby Central Fire Station and informed firemen of the blaze a few hundred yards down Church Street.

Firefighters arrived within three minutes, reporting flames were visible from the detached garage area, with smoke blowing across Church Street. They requested assistance from Hopkins County firefighters. The county's crew, which usually ends its day at 10 p.m., was still at the station and able to respond.

Firefighters were able to enter the structure and quickly extinguish the fire, limiting the worst damage to the garage. The old dentist's office sustained light smoke damage, James said following the blaze.

They found evidence that made the fire at the vacant Church Street residence suspicious and sent the evidence off for analysis.

One week later, on Jan. 13, SSFD was alerted by a police patrol officer who had observed smoke in the area while driving by. At 9:49 p.m. city firemen responded on the corner of Houston and Rosemont streets to a blaze between an old cabinet business and another warehouse which were connected at the back. The storage building caught fire and was damaged.

Upon investigation at that blaze, firefighters also collected what they believed to be evidence of arson, and sent it to be analyzed.

The evidence from both fires indicated arson. Meanwhile, further investigation pointed to a suspect who lived on Cottonwood Street between the two fire locations. All of the evidence collected from both scenes was presented to the district attorney's office at least a month ago.

On Thursday, the warrants were issued. Officers then served Williams with both warrants Thursday evening, according to James.

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