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Fire at Johnson's mobile home ruled arson

A fire that destroyed the mobile home of convicted murderer Michael Johnson last Tuesday near Thomson was deliberately set, according to local and state officials.

McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell said Thursday that the case had been ruled arson.

"We're now sure that someone set the fire at the Johnson home," Assistant Chief Sewell said.

At least two tips have been received by local authorities in connection with the fire that destroyed the home, off the Wrens Highway, according to McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services Chief Bruce Tanner.

As of Tuesday, there had been no arrests in connection with the latest fire, Chief Tanner said, noting that fire officials are working closely with Deputy Sgt. Mike Hobbs in an attempt to solve the case.

The assistant chief and Alan Logue of the Georgia State Fire Marshal's Office, sifted through charred debris on Thursday morning in an attempt to uncover how the fire started. A K-9 also was involved in the search and alerted to at least two suspicious areas, Assistant Chief Sewell said.

"We believe the fire originated somewhere around the front door," he said.

Several pieces of building material were collected by fire investigators and sent to a crime lab for analysis. Such evidence isn't expected back for several days.

Later Thursday afternoon, Assistant Chief Sewell said he received a telephone call from Mr. Logue informing him that the preliminary investigation has determined that the fire was arson.

As of Friday, no one had been arrested in connection with the crime.

No one was occupying the house at the time.

It is the second deliberately set fire at the mobile home since Mr. Johnson was arrested and subsequently convicted in January in the shooting death of Todd Brooks. The first fire occurred while Mr. Johnson was awaiting trial. Someone set fire to a pile of clothes. The fire smothered itself out and did not require the services of the county fire department.

Anyone with information about the fire should contact the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804 or the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services at 706-595-2045 or the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department at 706-595-2040.

Those with information which lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for such a crime can receive a reward of up to $10,000 from officials with the Georgia Insurance Commissioner's Office, which oversees the state fire marshal's office.

Web posted on Thursday, March 13, 2008

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