Fire informant gets big reward -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fire informant gets big reward

May 12, 2004

Ben Hill County-- A teenager who pleaded guilty to burning the old Fitzgerald High School was caught because of a tip to police. The caller who turned him in got a reward Wednesday. And investigators hope such rewards will promot tips in three other unsolved arsons in Ben Hill County.

A steel mesh fence protects the few buildings left on the site of the historic Fitzgerald High school. Last year, a 16-year old arsonist burned down the 100 year old school building. Detective Tommie Clark was one of the first to arrive at the fire.

"I had been there 45 minutes to a hour when I received a telephone that someone knew who set the fire,"says Clark.

Clarks says the informant was a teenage girl who went to school with the boy who torched the building. And after gathering other evidence about the suspect investigators made a quick arrest.

"Before midnight that night we had the individual in custody that set the fire," says Clark.

Swift police work that could not have been possible with out help from an informant. That's a trend State Fire Safety And Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine wants to continue.

"A fellow student here in Fitzgerald came forward and gave very valuable information and that allowed police officers to solve this case," says John Oxendine.

Oxendine awarded a 5,000 check for the informant in this case. Fire officials hope as more people find about the rewards it will lead to less fear and more convictions.

"I would like them to come forward and we can keep them anonymous like this young person here. No one knows who it was and we can keep it that way," says Chief Roger Coleman of the Fire Dept.

Steps they hope will show the community that crime doesn't pay in Georgia but being a good honest citizen does.

The teenage arsonist was sentenced to 20-years probation and ordered to pay 300 dollars restitution.

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