Atmore woman arrested for arson

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
An Atmore woman retaliated from an alleged fight Friday evening by setting fire to a Maxwell Street home.
Sandra Lowe was arrested and charged with first-degree arson early Saturday morning after the Alabama State Fire Marshall's Office determined that she set fire to a home located at 176 Maxwell Street.
"When we arrived on the scene, the owners had put the fire out in the bedroom in the back of the house," Atmore Fire &Rescue Department Chief Gerry McGhee explained. "We saw where she had set it, so we called the State Fire Marshal's Office and they sent a fire marshal out of Butler County to investigate. He got statements from everybody in the household."
Fire personnel arrived on the scene at 6:48 p.m. and quickly began to piece together the events leading up to the fire and suspected arson.
"We're called any time a fire department suspects that there's a criminal origin to a fire and we do an investigation," state fire marshal Ed Paulk said. "When you set fire to a structure it's a crime. And when you set fire to an occupied structure, it's first-degree arson."
The Atmore Fire &Rescue Department stayed on the scene of the fire to keep it secure until state fire marshal Kenny Harden arrived to perform the investigation.
"We determine if it looks like arson and if it does, we turn around and call the State Fire Marshal's Office and they'll dispatch one of their officers here to investigate," McGhee said.
McGhee said the homeowners tipped them off that an individual could have set the fire.
"The owner of the house said that the lady (Lowe) had a fight with her (homeowner's) oldest son and that she went back to check and she had been the only one in the room at the time and it was on fire," McGhee said. "There was no other resource for it to start."
McGhee said.
According to McGhee, the fire was relatively small and caused minor damage.
"She set a sheet on fire on the back of a door," McGhee said. "Someone walked in and saw it on fire, grabbed it and threw a bucket of water on it. It only caused some minor damage."
Once on the scene, McGhee stated that Harden took statements from the homeowners, family members and Lowe before making his determination. McGhee said the investigation wrapped up around midnight Saturday morning.
"She was the last one seen in the room and after he (fire marshal) had done all his questioning and got all statements from everyone, including her, he determined that it was arson," McGhee said. "After we got through with our investigation we found out that we had enough probable cause to book her with first-degree arson."
McGhee said no accelerant was used to tip off the fire marshal, but there was some evidence left behind.
"There was a bunch of matches in the room, so she probably just set the sheet on fire and went out the back door," McGhee said.
Lowe was later arrested and transferred to the Escambia County Detention Center. She remained in custody as of Tuesday afternoon on a $50,000 bond.
First-degree arson, which is defined as setting fire to an occupied dwelling, is a Class-A felony. If convicted, Lowe could face a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life.

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