Check for $6,500 given for arson info

COVINGTON - The message, "Crime doesn't pay, but honesty does," was reinforced Thursday afternoon when a check for $6,500 was awarded to the person who gave authorities information to solve a 2006 Newton County arson case.

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine and consultant Bud Ausborn with the Georgia Arson Control Board were at Newton County Fire Station No. 1 to make the presentation to Newton County Fire Services Chief Mike Satterfield. The check will be turned over to the person who helped authorities with the case but who chose to remain anonymous.

"This person came forward and did a great job in giving us information to help solve this case," said Oxendine in presenting the check, adding that when the person did this, he or she had no knowledge of the potential reward. "There are other unsolved arsons in the state. I'd like to encourage others to do the same if they have information ... if something doesn't look right or sound right, call 1-800-282-5804 and report it."

Oxendine said they could also call local authorities to report what they know and those who give tips can be assured of anonymity.

"This is real money going to this individual. Crime doesn't pay, but honesty does pay," he said.

The reward is made possible through a partnership with the Fire Safety Commissioner's Office and the Arson Control Board, which is comprised of property and casualty insurance companies. Since the fund for the reward, which can be up to $10,000, was created in 1979, $1.5 million has been distributed to more than 500 recipients throughout the state.

The reward was given Thursday in connection with a fire that destroyed a home and two automobiles on Pickett Bridge Road in October 2006. The fire damage was estimated to be $200,000.

Sheriff Ezell Brown was on hand for the ceremony. He was lead investigator on the case, which involved a female who was apparently mad at a former boyfriend and enlisted the aid of three friends to help her start a fire at his home about 2 a.m.

NCFS Deputy Chief and Arson Investigator Tim Smith said at the time of the incident it appeared that the fire initially started in the rear seat of a Jeep Cherokee in the driveway of the home. From there it spread to a pickup and then to home.

"The occupants came very close to losing their lives," Oxendine said.

Four suspects - Leon Dwayne McKenzie, Ed Anthony Carroll, Raychelle Alaine King and Keri Marie Bradford - were arrested, tried and convicted in connection with the blaze. They each received five years in prison and 20 years on probation.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.