Couple Concerned Arsonist At Work In County; Reward Offered
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A Cannon County couple who suffered not only a tremendous loss of property but also a "horrendous" personal scare during a July 9 suspected arson fire are hoping that someone will respond to the reward being offered for information about the person or persons responsible.

The home of Ed and Joan Shirley located at 8015 Jim Cummings Hwy. was the victim of suspected arson during the early morning hours of July 9.

A reward of $1,500 is being offered by Farm Bureau Insurance for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting the blaze. The Shirleys have personally added another $1,000 to the reward amount, making the total $2,500.

If apprehended, the suspect or suspects will also face charges of attempted murder, as the Shirleys were in the home and asleep at the time the fire was ignited.

"We have no idea who would have done this to us," Joan Shirley said. "We have noticed there have been a number of suspicious fires in the county both before and after ours and it makes us wonder if there is an arsonist or arsonists out there."

According to the Shirleys, the home and its contents was valued at over $300,000.

The fire is being investigated by the Cannon County Sheriff's Department and the State Division of Fire Prevention, Bomb and Arson Section.

Investigator Vance Walker of the CCSD said the case is under investigation and he has no statement to make at this time. He said if anyone has any information about the fire they can contact him at the sheriff's department (615-563-1000).

Ed Shirley said one of the indications the fire was intentionally set is "there was a fire trail that led from the house to the driveway that we saw burning. We brought that to the attention of the investigators."

Ed Shirley also said there is evident that someone had poured an accelerant on the porch, on flower pots on the deck outside the home, and on the ground leading from the driveway to the home.

Evidence collected at the scene has been sent to the state lab for testing, Ed Shirley said.

There is additional evidence to suggest the fire was set intentionally, Ed Shirley said, but investigators have requested that information not be revealed at this time because doing so may hinder the investigation.

While both Ed and Joan Shirley say they know of no hard evidence to suggest a string of recent fires in the county may be connected to the same person or persons, they are concerned that may be the case.

"We are pretty much blank as to who or why this might have happened to us," Ed Shirley said. "I don't think this (offering a reward) will do much to help our situation, but it may stop this (arson) from happening to our friends and neighbors and anyone else who lives in the county."

Information about the case can also be given via a state hotline. The Arson Hot Line (1-800-762-3017) is a phone line dedicated to receiving information about suspicious and incendiary fires. It is answered 24 hours a day and you may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction.

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