published Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Former LaFayette volunteer firefighter indicted on 8 arson charges

  • photo
    Detective Sgt. Stacey Meeks, the lead arson investigator with the Lafayette Police Department, stands outside of a burnt home in this file photo.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A former volunteer firefighter who was arrested in December 2010 for a slew of arsons in LaFayette, Ga., was indicted today on eight counts of arson.

The Walker County grand jury indicted 34-year-old Melvin Chase in connection with a series of fires from 2005 to 2010, said LaFayette Police Sgt. Stacey Meeks.

Chase, who was hired as a LaFayette volunteer firefighter in 2005, was arrested after admitting he had started several fires in abandoned buildings across town, Meeks said at the time.

Chase was charged with one count of arson at the time, but authorities said they would be able to prove he was responsible for 20 arsons. But police were only able to bring enough evidence against Chase to ask the grand jury to indict him on eight counts.

Meeks said several property owners couldn’t be traced through records, which are part of the evidence, and that led to the reduced number of charges.

Some of the homes were left as inheritances, while several others were abandoned and should have been seized by the county, Meeks said.

“It’s kind of like a victimless crime,” he said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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