Sharing of information between investigators in Upson and Lamar counties, along with the keen eyes of a Lamar County deputy, led to the arrest of a suspect in numerous arson cases in Upson, Lamar and Monroe counties.
Travis Leroy Ball, 46, of Warner Robins, was apprehended by Lamar County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Hamrick following a traffic stop on Highway 36 in Barnesville Jan. 8. Hamrick recognized Ball’s vehicle as matching an earlier lookout following two house fires in Upson County Jan. 7. Ball remains in the Lamar County Jail on charges of arson after bond was denied.
Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore said his department was already working with Lamar County when the latest fires took place.
“Essentially, what happened on Dec. 28, the people were looking at buying the house out on Crest Highway, and they found where someone had tried to burn it down. They called us out and we took the report,” said Kilgore. “Then Sunday night, that house caught fire again. That same night, Lamar County had three fires right after that one, and another one inside Monroe County.
“The investigators had already been talking and working together. We talked again Monday and strategized and talked about the investigation. Then Monday night, we had two fires, the one on Pickard Road which was called in, and the one on Burkett that was found by a firefighter on the way to the other one.
“Our investigator, Sgt. Jeff Taylor, called the investigator in Lamar and told them. They developed a suspect and pulled him over. Once he was stopped, there was some evidence in his possession that leads us to believe he is the suspect in these arson fires here. We’re still conducting our investigation and compiling facts, but we anticipate bringing charges very soon. “
If convicted, Ball could face up to 20 years in prison on each arson charge.
Sheriff Kilgore added that the majority of the house fires in both Upson and Lamar seem to fit a similar framework.
“The pattern seems to be vacant houses that were either in foreclosure or up for rent and would appear to be unoccupied,” said Kilgore. “I can’t speak for Lamar County, but the majority here seem to be modular homes. When those things catch fire, they burn fast. Most of these fires were out in the county. They weren’t in heavily populated areas.
“And thankfully, none of them were occupied. I’m very thankful that no one was hurt. It is bad enough to have property damage, but personal injury would be awful.”
According to Lamar County Chief Deputy Leslie Holmes, there were 11 suspicious fires in Lamar County in 2012 and four more since Jan. 1, 2013. How many of those will be linked to Ball is unknown at this time, but Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore said in addition to the four arson fires here in the last two weeks, four more fires that occurred last spring are also thought to possibly be linked to the suspect.
“We’ve got four fires that happened back in the spring of 2012 that we feel like are probably associated,” Sheriff Kilgore said. “We’re going to have to go back now and try to tie together the fires from last spring to these fires.
“It is a very interesting case and very fortunate that we were able to work together and get this guy in jail. Now we just need to get him charged and in the courthouse.”