Friends Of Victim Accused Of Setting Moore County Murder Scene On Fire
Posted December 23, 2003 11:02 a.m. EST
MOORE COUNTY, N.C. — Authorities say the trailer where four people died and another person was injured was deliberately set on fire Monday.
Three people have been arrested and charged with arson in connection with the fire. The three were friends of one of the murder victims.
According to Sheriff Lane Carter, Moore County 911 dispatchers received a call at approximately 4:32 p.m. on Monday that the mobile home was on fire. Deputies and firefighters found the residence fully engulfed in flames. Firemen were able to extinguish the fire.
No one was in the home at the time of the fire, and no one was hurt.
Witnesses identified three suspects whom they had seen leaving the trailer within minutes of seeing the fire.
Deputies located and arrested the three men. Statements provided by the suspects indicate that they were friends of at least one of the victims. They had just attended Eddie Ryals' funeral and went to his residence to get a memento by which to remember him. They became upset while viewing the inside of the home and set it on fire.
The suspects were identified as 26-year-old Clarence Edward Sutton, of Cameron, 24-year-old Daniel Allen Kelly, of Carthage, and 24-year-old Kevin Everette Pate, of Whiteville. Each of the three is charged with one count of felony breaking-and-entering and one count of burning an uninhabited house.
Sutton is being held in the Moore County jail on $100,000 bond. Bond for Kelly and Pate, who also are in the Moore County jail, was set at $75,000.
Earlier in the day, sheriff's officials said three other people confessed to killing Ryals and three other people at the mobile home. Authorities said the motive was robbery.
On Friday, authorities said Mario Phillips shot 21-year-old Ryals, 19-year-old Joseph Allen Harden of Vass, 18-year-old Carl Garrison Justice of Carthage and 20-year-old Harvey Darrell Hobson of Carthage. Authorities said Renee Yvette McLaughlin assisted with the crime, and Sean Maurice Ray also stabbed the victims and set the mobile home on fire with a cigarette lighter.
When fire crews arrived at the scene, one victim, 15-year-old Amanda Cook, was found laying on the ground outside the home. Authorities said that, despite being shot twice and stabbed 22 times, she was able to communicate to investigators what happened.
"She is a fighter; she is a tough one," Sheriff Carter said.
Authorities said the three suspects made off with $170.
Phillips was found later Friday evening at his mother's home across the street. Deputies arrested Ray and McLaughlin a few hours later.
Patricia Mattson, Justice's grandmother, said published reports about the trailer being a haven for drugs and alcohol are untrue.
"This has been the most horrible, horrible thing that could happen in a parent and grandparent's life," she said.
Cook is listed in serious condition at the hospital.
No other arrests are expected. Authorities said they do not believe drugs were involved.