- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A fire last month at a building that housed the offices of the Arkansas County sheriff and county judge was deliberately set, federal investigators said this week.

No injuries were reported in the early morning fire at the courthouse annex building in Stuttgart on Sept. 23. An initial investigation by an Arkansas County fire marshal suggested the fire was electrical, but more evidence gathered by federal investigators at the scene pointed to arson, said Grover Crossland of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Crossland, resident agent in charge of the bureau’s Little Rock field office, said federal investigators began looking into the blaze several weeks ago at the request of the state fire marshal’s office. He said he couldn’t say more about the bureau’s findings because of the ongoing investigation.

No suspects have been found, but anyone arrested will likely face federal arson charges, Crossland said.

The Arkansas County sheriff’s office and the state fire marshal’s office are assisting in the investigation, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1vQIFb8 ).

“It’s sad enough that the building burned down, but to learn it was deliberate just makes you really angry,” County Judge Sonny Cox said Wednesday. “When you think someone did it on purpose and what effect this has had on us. It really has hurt everyone in the county that has to do business with us.”

The courthouse annex building, built in 1918, has housed several other county offices since 1992, including assessor, emergency management, collector and sanitation. Because Arkansas County has two county seats, one in Stuttgart and the other in DeWitt, the fire wasn’t a “total disaster for county government,” Cox said.

Offices in the Stuttgart annex building have been temporarily moved to the adjacent circuit courthouse basement, where county business is still being conducted, he said.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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