Local News

Arson Suspected at Two Cumberland County Women's Clinics

Posted September 7, 1998

— Cumberland County arson investigators are looking into a pair of overnight fires at two women's clinics that perform abortions.

Around 1:30 Tuesday morning, someone passing by spotted smoke at the Hallmark Clinic, and notified the fire department.

"It appears they used a ladder to gain access to the roof, and that's where the fire originated," Fayetteville Police Sergeant Roberto Rivera said. "It burned through the roof and into the attic, and one wall inside caught fire."

The damage at the clinic was considered minor, but the building was closed Tuesday while clean-up continued. Officials say they will increase patrols around the clinic.

Arson investigators are also looking into a fire at the Carolina Women's Clinic on Gillespie Street, about five minutes away from the site of the other clinic fire.

The Carolina Women's Clinic was gutted by a suspicious fire in the Summer of 1991. Tuesday morning, investigators say a flammable liquid was placed around the door.

Scarlett Cheney is against abortion, but she does not condone what happened Tuesday morning.

"I don't know any other way to say it, other than it's wrong," Cheney said. "It's an embarrassment to the Pro-Life movement."

Rivera said the timing and locations of Tuesday's fires suggest they are related, but only further investigation will determine for certain.

"Somebody may try and destroy something because of what we got, and so I'd rather not talk about the evidence at this point," Rivera said.

Neighborhood residents say anti-abortion activists picketed at the Hallmark Clinic a couple of Saturdays ago, but they do not recall any trouble.

Genevieve Freeman lives two houses away from the Hallmark clinic. She has always tried to overlook people picketing, but she is uneasy about someone committing a crime so close to her home

"You are concerned when something like that happens, especially after abortion clinics in other places have been bombed," Freeman said. "It make you wonder."

North Carolina Right to Lifehas issued a statement condemning the fires.

The Fayetteville Police, Cumberland County Sheriff's Department, ATF, and FBI are all involved in the investigation.

Evidence collected at both fires was set to go to the ATF lab Wednesday. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms investigates many abortion clinic bombings and arsons in the U.S. However, less than half of those cases have been solved.

Across the country, the ATF has investigated 194 bombings and arsons at abortion clinics since 1982. 85 of those cases have been solved. 68 cases still remain open. The remaining 41 cases are considered closed, but unsolved.

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