City Fire in Earle Possibly Arson

DECEMBER 11, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:00 P.M. CST

EARLE, AR -- An early morning fire in the small city of Earle is being called arson and because of it city court is on hold.

Around 7:30 Monday morning, Earle City Officials are normally preparing for court, but not today. Their recently renovated city annex was in flames and investigators seem pretty sure it wasn't an accident.

"We're definitely investigating an arson. We've recovered quite a bit of evidence to state that is was arson," says Tommy Marshall with the Crittenden County Sheriff's Department.

The Arkansas State Police, along with the Crittenden County Sheriff's Department started their investigation early and said it wasn't hard to find clues pointing to arson. Fire accelerants were found inside and the outside power box was disabled and left open, but as to why someone would've started this fire, investigators say the motive is unclear.

"It's very early in the investigation right now and your guess is as good as mine," says Marshall.

Sherman Smith is the outgoing mayor of Earle. He says city documents were not kept inside the building, but the igniter may have thought otherwise.

"I have no idea unless somebody who may have been on the court docket and thought the court documents were kept there or something but it was to no avail," says Smith.

William Davis owns Davis Automotive just next door to the city annex. He says he's thankful the firefighters were able to keep the flames under control and away from his business.

"It's right next door. I'm surprised it didn't catch my building on fire. Praise God it didn't and that I still have a business," says Davis.

Davis says the rural town has enough problems already and says he's ashamed someone would do this to their city building.

"It's uncalled for. Earle doesn't have anything anyway, the town is drying up. Here we got people going around setting fires to government buildings and being dishonest," adds Davis.

Earle City Court was rescheduled for December 18th at 7:30 and the location is yet to be determined.