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Damion Blevins
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Originally published: 2014-03-05 10:49:38
Last modified: 2014-03-05 10:50:24

UPDATE: ACSO makes third arrest in North Beaver Baptist Church arson

After an investigation spanning 19 months, Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said Monday charges have been filed relating to the July 29, 2012, fire that destroyed North Beaver Baptist Church.

"(We felt we knew) for quite some time who (burned the church), but it just took a lot of hard, dedicated work to put this together," Williams said in a March 3, interview. "Just the nature of it, being a church and a house of worship, we wanted them in custody bad."

Damion Okoyia Blevins, 21, of Todd, was charged with Setting Fire to Burn & Aid the Burning of a House of Worship (Class E Felony), Breaking and/or Entering a Place of Worship with intent to Commit a Felony/Larceny (Class G Felony) and Larceny after Breaking or Entering (Class H Felony) by the Ashe County Sheriff's Office.

Blevins' bond was posted at $500,000. He is currently incarcerated for discharging a weapon into a residence, along with several additional charges.

Anthony Dustin Graybeal, 24, of West Jefferson, was charged with Setting Fire to Burn & Aid the Burning of a House of Worship a (Class E Felony), Breaking and/or Entering a Place of Worship with intent to Commit a Felony/Larceny (Class G Felony) and Larceny after Breaking or Entering (Class H Felony). Graybeal's bond was also posted at $500,000.

Kellie Elizabeth Wolfe, 17, of West Jefferson, who was 16 at the time of the alleged arson, has been charged with Setting Fire to Burn & Aid the Burning of a House of Worship (Class E Felony), Breaking and/or Entering a Place of Worship with intent to Commit a Felony/Larceny (Class G Felony) and Larceny after Breaking or Entering (Class H Felony). Wolfe received a bond of $500,000.

The lead detective, Phil Howell, said he knew the case would be difficult to solve because physical evidence is normally destroyed in arson cases.

"Arson cases are so difficult to solve, only somewhere around 11 percent (nationally)," Howell said.

A quick response by emergency personnel, however, left much of the rear of the church intact, Howell said, which preserved some physical evidence he was able to use in the case.

"We had some items that we were able to send to the lab to get prints off of," Howell said.

Within four months, by November 2012, Howell said he was able to piece together a likely scenario for the crime, and compiled additional evidence through a series of interviews.

"It was pretty much interview, after interview, after interview," Howell said. "We probably interviewed more than 30 people."

Howell, who spoke with District Attorney Tom Horner's office at various times during the investigation, said he felt relieved when he felt he had compiled enough evidence to bring charges.

"We knew the story," Howell said. "It was simply trying to get all of the evidence. Once (Horner's office) was cool with us charging them, I think that was the point where we relaxed a little."

Williams said the investigation is not over, however, and said his office could charge two more individuals in the case.

"They'll be sweating bullets," Williams said. "We'll find them shortly."

Anyone with additional information about this investigation is asked to call the Ashe County Sheriff's Office at (336) 846-5633 or Ashe County Crime Stoppers at (336) 846-4188. Crime Stoppers pays cash for information leading to the arrest of individuals connected to certain crimes.

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