WILLIAMSON — A body was found Saturday night in the rubble a massive fire at an Elm Street apartment complex, which also left three residents and two Williamson firemen injured.
According to Williamson Police Chief Grady Dotson, James Church, 32, of Williamson has been arrested following an investigation and charged with murder and arson, along with several other charges.
According to an arrest report in Mingo County Magistrate Court, after taking in witness statements and viewing video surveillance police believe that Church and two other individuals broke into a residence at the apartment complex in an attempt to steal drugs and money in retaliation to a prior incident.
Police believe that a man was beaten and stabbed, and then the three individuals intentionally set the fire to cover up any evidence. The man was allegedly beaten with an ax and stabbed multiple times.
According to the report, witnesses told police about an argument at one of the units before the blaze. They allegedly told police that they saw someone being assaulted in the apartment and then saw three people run out of the building shortly before the flames were seen.
Witnesses also told police during the investigation that they never saw the man who was assaulted get out of the building, which led to the search and discovery of the burned human remains on Saturday night.
Warrants have also been issued for Charles Jarvis and Terry Jarvis, who are thought to be involved. The name of the victim has not been released.
Multiple agencies are continuing to investigate the blaze, including the WFD, Williamson Police Department and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The two Williamson firefighters, who went unnamed in a social media post on the WFD’s Facebook page, both suffered second-degree burns to their face and ears during a defensive attack on the third floor of the structure.
The three residents suffered minor injuries or health problems and were transported by ambulance to a local hospital, according to the post.
The WFD was first notified of the fire at 6:29 a.m., and flames were already shooting through the roof of the building when they arrived.
An initial interior attack simultaneously from both the front and the rear of the structure was quickly abandoned because of extreme conditions, and the fight became defensive from the outside of the building.
The structure was deemed a total loss with considerable areas on the inside having collapsed. Two single-family homes on both sides of the structure received minor damage.
Seven people were left homeless due to the fire.
This makes four separate structure fires that have occurred in downtown Williamson since mid-February. The first three fires are also the result of what fire officials say is suspected arson, but no arrests have been made in those fires.
The investigation is continuing, and anyone with information is urged to contact the Williamson Police Department, West Virginia State Fire Marshal or the Williamson Fire Department.
The Mingo County Sheriff’s Department assisted with the investigation, and the Chattaroy Volunteer Fire Department and STAT EMS responded to the scene.