GBI: Victims of 'racist' home fire set blaze themselves - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

GBI: Victims of 'racist' home fire set blaze themselves

June 12, 2003

(Ashburn-AP)  -- A black couple whose home was covered in racial epithets and torched Saturday night is accused of starting the fire themselves.

The house owners -- Patrick and Shanda Burwell -- are charged with felony arson for the fire. They were arrested late yesterday after an investigation by state fire experts.

Ashburn Police Chief Ben Sumner said -- quote -- "We had some suspicions we picked up on as soon as we got there." Sumner wouldn't elaborate on why police thought the blaze and graffiti were done on purpose.

The Burwells originally told officers that they came home from dinner to find their house on fire.

Another man, 22-year-old Adrian Newberry, has also been arrested in this case and is charged with arson.

After the fire, Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine classified the fire an arson and considered filing it as a hate crime. State authorities also offered a ten-thousand dollar reward for information about the culprit.