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Orange County Couple Suspected of Torching Their Own Home

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HILLSBOROUGH — When a house goes up in flames, you call the fire department. A call likethat came three times last month to the same home in Orange County. Firefighters came to fight the fire, including a firefighter fromCarrboro.

Robby Crabtree fell through a floor while he was trying to put out theflames. He's still in the hospital. Police now think they know whoset those fires.

The suspects are 56-year-old Jim Tingle and his 52-year-old wife Betty.The couple lived in the home. Orange County deputies arrested themWednesday. The fires happened on the 18th, 20th and 21st of last month. And though that's certainly suspicious, a neighbor says he'd be verysurprised if the Tingles are responsible.

Scott McSwain lives just yards from the Tingle house. He called 911 thenight of the third fire after his son got him out of bed.

"He woke us up, and we looked out the window," McSwain said. "It was afull blaze up astall as the house."

While battling the flames, floorboards collapsed under Crabtree. McSwain heard it happen.

"I heard a big crash, and it got kind of quiet for a minute or two,and somebody screamed to get a ladder," McSwain said.

Now at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, Crabtree is listed in goodcondition. And McSwain's neighbors, Jim and Betty Tingle, are charged with three felony counts each of setting fire to their own house.

McSwain was shocked to hear the news and says Jim Tingle told him his insurancecompany had listed the house as a total loss after the second fire. Ifthat's true, McSwain can't understand why Tingle would torch the housea third time or why he'd put a match to it in the first place.

"I wouldn't really think that Jim would do something like that," McSwainsaid. "I don'tknow him very well, but I wouldn't think anybody would do anything likethat."

The Tingles are scheduled to appear in Orange County District Court inHillsborough Thursday morning. WRAL's Robert Carver tried to speakto the Tingles, but no one answered atthe telephone number listed on the Orange County arrest reports.

He also tried to see them at their new apartment, but two people thereinformed him they weren't home. Those two people, who claimed to be neighbors, drove away in a car registered to Betty Tingle.

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