DA: It pays to get up front money for arson jobs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2004

MARION – It doesn’t pay to commit arson on credit and give a detailed accounting of lost property to a state fire marshal while one’s mobile home is still smoldering.

At least that’s what a Perry County Grand Jury thought this week when prosecutors presented 50 cases to it, among them the two counts of capital murder against Charlie Bennett of Uniontown, accused of killing Lawrence Alvin Smith and Kenneth Dixie.

The grand jury, which met this week in Marion, returned criminal indictments against Robert Timothy Lee, his wife Michelle Jackson Lee and Jerry L. Moore who were charged with theft of property by deception from an insurance company, conspiracy to commit theft by deception and conspiracy to commit arson in a blaze that destroyed the Lee’s double-wide mobile home.

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“Allegedly, Timothy Lee contacted Moore to burn his trailer and was promised $2,000 to do it,” Greene said. “Never do an arson on credit. It’s bad, bad business.”

Greene said the first break in the case came when Timothy Lee gave a fire marshal on the scene of the fire a very detailed accounting of personal property that was lost in the fire. Lee arrived at the scene of fire after returning from a Mississippi gambling trip.

“The fire marshal found it odd that the guy would give such details when there was no evidence of the burned up stuff,” he said. Green also said the fire marshal characterized the scene as “burned to ashes.”

A search warrant was obtained and the property Lee had reported as being destroyed in the blaze was located.

“At that point Mr. Lee figured he’d messed up,” Greene said.

As for Moore, Greene thought his business practices may have been questionable.

“A good arsonist, in my 25 to 30 years of experience as a prosecutor, gets paid up front for a job – never on credit,” he said.

It wasn’t the only case to come before the grand jury that involved Lee.

Marvin Herd was indicted for assaulting Lee after an argument over a car sale escalated into fisticuffs.

Apparantly, Green said, Herd confronted Lee over a car Lee had sold to one of Herd’s relatives. The car, it seems, had died shortly after the transaction. Both men drove to the police station, where, according to Greene, another argument erupted ended when Herd popped Lee in the eye.

“Herd was quoted by police officers as saying something to the effect that he had hit (Lee) and he was ‘sure I meant to.’

It was also unprofitable for those with disagreements over boyfriends.

Greene said Jason Turner was indicted after “keying” two vehicles in an argument between two females over a boyfriend.

Violence also erupted when Joyce Williams, indicted for second degree assault, ran over another female after an argument between the two over a boyfriend. The victim was treated for minor injuries and released from a local hospital, he said.

Other indictments included:

Walter Agnew for burglary of a vehicle. He was chased away from the car by the car’s owner. When arrested after fleeing the scene on his bicycle he told police, “it was not that much money.”

Carlos Blevins, for drug possesson.

Lee Arthur Ford, for stealing a pistol from his step father.

Antonio Foster on assault.

The Rev. Terrance Gaines, for cashing several checks allegedly stolen from a female parishioner whom he had gone to pick up for church.

James Hambright, for passing a counterfeit bill.

Michael Hopkins for possession of cocaine and a gun.

Lorenzo Lee, on marijuana-related charges.

Willie Mayberry, on marijuana-related charges.

Richard Moore for third degree escape and burglary third degree. Moore apparently attempted to escape from police by running out the back door of the police station handcuffed to a chair while officers were in the process of filing out a report stemming from house burglary of the Lee Wallace residence. In addition to jewelry belonging to Lee’s wife, the chair, handcuffs and Moore were recovered by police, Greene said.

Travis Page and co-defendant Larry Walker, on burglary and receiving stolen property charges.

Rose T. Williams, on charges of the identity theft of an elderly citizen. “Due to some job connection, she apparently was able to get (the victim’s) identity information and apply for several credit cards. She had been paying on the cards fairly well, but she used too much credit and got behind,” Greene said.

The grand jury returned no bills of indictments after reviewing the Perry County Commission audit, which had cited the county for paying its Board of Registrars an amount more than allowed by law due to differing interpretations of a pay raise bill passed by the Legislature. “It is the same issue here as in other counties,” Greene said.

Also passing grand jury muster was the Perry County Hospital’s audit report.

The grand jury considered the death of Ron Coleman who died as a result of a blood clot several weeks after being involved in a shootout with police. The jury found cause to indict in that case.

“As a rule, we present unattended deaths to the grand jury for its review,” Greene said.