Valdosta police nab arson suspects - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Valdosta police nab arson suspects

September 19, 2007

Valdosta - Investigators say the fire that destroyed the Pinevale Learning Center in Valdosta was intentionally set.

Now police have two suspects in custody.  "I can tell you they live in that area and last night while we were on scene, the two individuals that we are looking at were near the scene," says Commander Brian Childress with the Valdosta Police.  "We were going around the scene, located some witnesses that tie these individuals being there prior to our arrival."

First responders arrive at the school around 9:15 Tuesday night when its motion detectors were triggered.

They say they found a broken window and the school ablaze.  "That also ties into why we think this is an arson. Because checking with the fire department, smoke will not set off a motion alarm," Childress says.

Wednesday, they got their first look at the damage. The building is a total loss and investigators with State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine's office say they found multiple points of ignition left behind by the arsonists.

And a mess school administrators are left to clean up.  "Everything was totally destroyed. Luckily our systems utilize mobile labs in our other schools and our other schools were nice enough to say, we'll loan you the mobile labs," says Ronnie Dunn, Director of the PLC.

Besides the labs, they spent the day cleaning out the old Lomax-Pinevale Elementary school, that's sat vacant behind the school for three years.  It will become the new hope for the PLC when classes resume on Thursday.  "We can move over here, set up shop and we are only looking at the down time of one day," Dunn says.

Police are not yet releasing the names of the suspects but say they are not students and hope to file charges soon.

The Insurance Commissioners office estimates the cost of the damage at around one million dollars.

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