Tire Store Owner Arrested In Arson Investigation
PARIS, Tenn. – The owner of a tire store that went up in flames in Henry County has been arrested. Officials said they believed the fire was intentionally set.
Captain Damon Lowe with the Criminal Investigative Division of the Henry County Sheriff's Office said 54-year-old Joseph LeRoy Smith was arrested in connection with the case.
Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said one of his deputies was on patrol around 1 a.m. on February 21 in an area off Highway 79 North in Paris when he passed two men walking on the side of the road.
A moment later, he saw flames coming from inside the Smith Discount Tire Barn. After calling in the fire to emergency dispatch, he turned his patrol car around and detained the two men along with a woman who had stopped to pick them up.
Firefighters responded to the scene, but were unable to save the structure.
Sheriff Belew said 20 storage units in the adjoining parking lot were also destroyed.
The storage facility owner said the units housed boats, antique cars, RVs and some irreplaceable personal antique items. The owner estimated the loss at around $400,000.
Three homes behind the tire store off Jackson Forrest Road had to be evacuated.
Belew credited the deputy for arresting the suspects and catching the blaze in time for firefighters to keep the flames from spreading even further.
"(He) wanted to know what they were doing in this area at 1:00 in the morning," Sheriff Belew said. "Obviously it appeared to be suspicious at first."
The suspects were identified as William Tomlin Jr., Diane Tomlin, and Micheal Allred.
Sheriff Belew said two of the suspects admitted to starting the fire.
All three were all charged with arson. Investigators said William Tomlin was an employee at the business.
Officials did not say how they believed Smith was involved. He was also charged with arson.
The exact cause of the fire has not been released.