Grand jury decision shocks officials
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Although the Morgan County Grand Jury failed to return an indictment last week in the July 28 fire at Quail Run Apartments that killed a family of three, local officials say they feel a crime was committed.
"This was definitely a set fire," Hartselle Fire Chief Rickey Joe Smith said. "If not, the case would never have made it to the grand jury."
"I felt like they would indict," Lt. Tom Sparks of the Hartselle Police Department said. "It is the position of the Hartselle Police Department that he (suspect) lit a picture on fire, tossed it out the door, and it landed in a chair where the fire began. I can't imagine what could have happened for the grand jury not to indict."
State Fire Marshal John S. Robinson is expected to release the complete results of the investigation to the public this week.
"This was a very thorough investigation with multiple agencies working together," Smith said. "There were many man hours put into this case. I am really displeased and disappointed that an indictment wasn't returned, but I am very pleased with the investigation. We did our job."
According to a grand jury statement, the results of the investigation conducted by the State Fire Marshal's Office, Hartselle Police and Fire Departments did not yield sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.
Smith and Sparks said Robinson, six state investigators, three HPD investigators, and Hartselle Fire certified fire investigator Phillip Kelsoe worked in a joint effort to conduct the investigation for more than a week.
"We did the best job we knew to do," Sparks said. "There was a lot of expertise working the case as efficiently as possible. We all gave 110 percent."
Sparks said the suspect was pointed out by witnesses and detained at the scene of the fire for questioning. Since the first witness accounts were portrayed as an arson case, Sparks said officials handled the investigation as such.
Both Smith and Sparks said even though a grand jury indictment was not handed down, a civil suit could arise from the investigation.