The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 9, 2014

Ardmore man charged with arson

Told investigator he burned wife's letters in bathroom

— An Ardmore man remains jailed in Limestone County for allegedly setting fire to a home he and his wife had been renting, and for several probation violations.

David Lee Brown, 34, was arrested Thursday on a charge of second-degree arson. He is accused of starting a fire at a single-story home at 29354 E. Ninth Ave. sometime before 6 a.m. Feb. 11. The fire caused an estimated $60,000 worth of damage to the uninsured home, records show.

A second fire initially thought to be a rekindling of the flames also appears to have been set, though it is not clear by whom, according to a fire investigator’s report filed in Limestone County District Court.

Brown told the investigator that until recently he and his wife, Shannon Kephart, had been living in the home, which was owned by her mother, and which was in foreclosure. He said they had moved to a friend’s home on Eighth Avenue after their power was cut on Ninth.

Bail is set at $5,000 on the arson charge, but Brown remains jailed due to four felony probation violations with the Limestone County Community Corrections Program, an official said Friday.

Fire investigation

In a seven-page incident report filed in Limestone County District Court, Deputy Fire Marshal Jimmy Collier said he was called the day of the fire to investigate its cause and origin. Due to bad weather, Collier said he examined the remains of the home Feb. 14 and found there was no electric service to the dwelling when fire broke out, though Brown had told him he shared the home with his wife, Kephart, and still considered it his home.

After examining the remains, Collier said he found what appeared to be “a burn pattern” on the floor of the right, front bedroom consistent in appearance to “a flammable or ignitable liquid being poured and ignited.”

He said the pour pattern appeared to “continue to the area of the rear entrance door and deck,” and that the absence of “an accidental ignition source” — combined with statements from witnesses and from Brown — caused him to believe the fire on Feb. 11 was “intentionally set by Brown.”

In his statement to Collier, Brown said he suffered from mental psychosis most of his life, including bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and manic depression, and that he needed help and to get back on his medication. He said he and Kephart had been arguing the night before the fire. He said he believed Kephart was planning to leave him, and that he had gone to the home on Ninth.

Brown said he could not remember everything but he remembered setting fire to letters, he and Kephart had exchanged, in the bathroom of the home and that the fire engulfed the bathroom. He said he did not remember setting fire to the home or using an accelerant to do so but he remembered calling Kephart and telling her if she did not come to the house on Ninth that he would burn it down with him in it.

In her statement to Ardmore Police Chief David Whitt, Kephart said Brown had started beating her while they were at the Eighth Avenue location on Feb. 10, the night before the fire. She said Brown left the next morning, then called her from the Ninth Avenue home to tell her if she did not come there in the next few minutes, he would burn the home. She said she thought he was joking and hung up on him. She said he later returned to the Eighth Avenue home covered in soot.

According to Collier’s report, Kephart reported the fire at 6:14 a.m. When Ardmore firefighters arrived at the scene at 6:28 a.m., the temperature was 23 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of 15 degrees, he said.

Firefighters were called back to the fire later after it appeared to have rekindled. However, Collier said in his report that the second fire also appeared to have been set. Under questioning about a possible second fire, Brown said he had only tried to burn the letters in the bathroom and that he had never returned to the home after the first fire.

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