Local News

Teen Charged With Burning Historic Site

Posted April 4, 2008 5:53 p.m. EDT

— A Wayne County teen was arrested Friday and charged with setting fire to the home where former Gov. Charles B. Aycock was born, authorities said.

Durwood Eugene Smith III, 17, of 502 Wooten St. in Fremont, was charged with burning of state property. He was being held Friday in the Wayne County Jail on a $100,000 secured bond.

Authorities said they expected to make more arrests in the case.

Fire broke out in the main house at the Aycock Birthplace, which is a state historic site, in the early hours of Jan. 24. Smoke detectors installed at the site in recent years led to a rapid response by firefighters, which kept the blaze from spreading, officials said.

The fire was confined to the house's parlor, back porch and loft, but most of the house and its furnishings sustained smoke and water damage. Damage was estimated at more than $200,000.

Wayne County Crime Stoppers and several concerned citizens assisted Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies in the investigation, authorities said.

Aycock was born in the house near Fremont in 1859. He was elected governor in 1900 and focused on improving public education in North Carolina. Critics have claimed he promoted segregation and white supremacy.