Clinton Bice told Cumberland County Fire Department and a Sheriff’s Investigator that he woke from a nap, awakened by the sound of breaking glass, to find his home full of smoke. He said he then tried to move his truck but couldn’t find his keys.
Problem is, his statement was in conflict with statements made by other witnesses and the evidence found at the scene, resulting in an ongoing investigation into who set multiple fires and why.
The incident occurred at 226 Hassler Lane off Lantana Rd. on Monday around 9:30 p.m., according to Sheriff’s Investigator Gary Green’s report.
Assistant Fire Chief Kenny Kilgore and Capt. Mike Finley told Green firefighters had found two separate locations where it appeared to them fires had been set.
The investigator then interviewed Bice, and he told how he escaped from the residence and called 911 from outside. Also interviewed was Bice’s wife, Audrey, who was shopping in Cookeville at the time of the incident.
Audrey Bice recalled receiving a call from her sister asking where she was and then telling her the home was on fire. Audrey then called her husband and asked if the house was on fire. “It might be,” she quoted him as responding.
The report went on to say that Clinton Bice told him the fire from the house set the Suzuki vehicle on fire. Investigators, however, observed the fire set in the living room never made it to the rear of the house, and there was no evidence that fire burned the vehicle.
The Suzuki also suffered fire and smoke damage and from a blaze that investigators said appeared to have been set.
Other witnesses told the investigator they passed by the mobile home and observed a glow from what appeared to be fire reflecting in the front picture window. They contacted a family member, who told them to return and that he would meet them there. On both passes, the two witnesses reported seeing Bice standing beside the Suzuki. When the retuned the second time, fire was widespread in the front part of the trailer, the report continues.
The property was taped off so investigators could return once the fire cooled and so the scene would be kept secured the rest of the night. A reserve deputy stayed at the scene. The following day, Investigator Scott Griffin and Green returned to the scene to continue their probe, which is continuing. A search warrant for the residence was obtained. No charges have been filed as of press time.
Griffin said Wednesday that the investigation is active but availability issues of some witnesses has hampered progress and he is concerned that officials will not be able to identify and prove who set the fires.