Local News

Investigators Connect Cumberland County Fires

Posted July 7, 2004 11:14 a.m. EDT

— Initially, the fires were called accidental. But a recent string of rest home fires in Cumberland County could be arson.

Furthermore, a resident could be to blame.

Cumberland County investigators will not identify the suspect because they do not have any hard evidence. What they do have is someone who lived at two different health-care facilities when both caught fire.

In the early hours of May 27, flames shot through the roof of the Cozy Cottage rest home in Fayetteville. It was the second fire at the home that month. It destroyed most of the building and forced residents to move to other facilities.

Originally, investigators blamed an electrical short. Now, they are not so sure.

Here's why: a fire at Happy Valley Retirement Center in Hope Mills less than a month later.

"There's no reason for that fire to have started other than by human hands," sad Maj. Sam Pennica, of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

After some digging, detectives found a key connection between the Happy Valley and Kozy Kottage fires -- a client.

"We've determined one particular resident had been at Kozy Kottage and Happy Valley at the time of all three fires," Pennica said.

Detectives said that, after the Kozy Kottage fires, the suspect moved to Happy Valley.

Investigators said the arson suspect now is living at yet another health-care facility. WRAL was told that administrators there are aware of the suspicions and have precautions in place to prevent another fire.