The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Local News

January 2, 2013

Tarboro man admits torching house of ex-girlfriend

TARBORO — “Everything’s burnt up,” said Charles West, as he surveyed the damage from a fire that ravaged his home at 404 E. Battle Ave. in Tarboro Sunday night.

At 12:17 a.m., about three hours after the fire started, the Tarboro Police Department served a warrant for the arrest of Gary Wayne Owens, 51, of 810 West Country Club Drive in Tarboro. Owens was charged with first-degree arson and one count of communicating threats. He was placed in the Edgecombe County Jail under a $25,000 secured bond.

“He did provide me with a written statement and confessed to it all,” said Tarboro Police Detective Sgt. Bruce Edwards. “He did admit that he got some lighter fluid. He admitted that he went to the back of the house and poured the lighter fluid all over a moped that was parked at the back of the house.”

The moped was leaning up against the house, so the fire quickly spread to the back bedroom. “We were in the bed in the room to the back. I seen the flames through the window,” said West’s girlfriend, Angela Hathaway. At that point, she said she shook West awake, told him the house was on fire, and the two headed out the door.

“I’m glad I wasn’t asleep on the couch. I’d be dead,” said Hathaway. Her ex-boyfriend, Owens, set the fire in what Edwards terms a “jealous rage.” Edwards described Owens’ relationship with Hathaway as an “on and off again” girlfriend/ boyfriend relationship and said Owens told him Hathaway had left him on Christmas Eve.

“Gary and Charles really didn’t have any personal volatile issues other than the female,” said Edwards. “Volatile” is the word to describe the fire that wreaked havoc in West’s home.

“It started in the back room – the master bedroom. The one room is totally gone, then there’s heat and smoke damage throughout the house,” Tarboro Fire Lt. Danny Butler said. The Tarboro Fire Department responded to the fire call shortly after 9 p.m. and extinguished the fire in about 20 minutes, said Butler. The department remained on the scene until about 10:30 p.m.

Edwards said the department developed Owens as a suspect after West told him he had been receiving voicemail messages from West for several days, at times threatening to burn the house down.

“Some guy called my house last night and threatened to burn the house down,” West stated, at the scene.

“After the fire, he [Owens] leaves a message stating, ‘I didn’t burn your house down,’” Edwards said.

Owens set fire to his own home on March 4, 2010, according to Edwards. Although he wasn’t charged in that incident, he was charged with a DWI that same night and convicted on Oct. 28, 2010. He was placed on supervised probation for 24 months.

As for West and Hathaway, they weren’t left out in the cold after Sunday night’s house fire.

“We’ve got Red Cross on the way to take care of them for the night,” Butler said.

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