LINCOLN COUNTY • Police believe they have stopped a serial arsonist who has been targeting structures in Old Monroe with the arrest Monday of an unusual suspect: a volunteer firefighter.
Dustin Matthew Grigsby, 19, of the 200 block of Emerald Court in Old Monroe, has been charged with one count of arson, but authorities say he is the main suspect in 14 more structure fires near the small Lincoln County community this year. Bail is set at $50,000 cash only.
Fire officials with the Old Monroe Fire Protection District — where Grigsby volunteered, and his father is a captain — had noticed that there had been an unusually high number of suspicious fires this year.
The most recent one happened Saturday at a detached garage in the 100 block of First Street in Old Monroe. In that incident, the blaze started shortly after 7 p.m. The property owner said he did not know how the fire had started, but he heard an explosion before discovering flames. The garage and a 1991 Chevrolet pickup were destroyed.
On Sunday morning, John Adams, the owner of Adams Automotive in Old Monroe, contacted the sheriff’s office after reviewing his security camera’s footage. His business is across the street from the home.
The footage showed a white 1990s Chevrolet Lumina car with a large dent in the rear driver’s side panel driving past the garage several times. The car eventually pulled next to the garage and remained there with its headlights off.
A man later identified as Grigsby then emerged from the parked vehicle and entered the garage, authorities said. Within minutes of Grigsby leaving the area, the structure was fully engulfed in flames.
Lincoln County Fire Marshal Barry Nuss had been charting the area’s other suspicious fires, which showed the fires had been set in a circular pattern, police said. He advised police to start looking for the arsonist’s car in the middle of the pattern.
Based on Nuss’ advice, police began to canvass the Green Acres Subdivision, and a short time later located a white 1990s Chevrolet Lumina in Grigsby’s driveway. When police interviewed him, Grigsby admitted to investigators he started the fire Saturday, authorities say.
Grigsby told police that he lit some napkins he brought along with him along with some papers he found in the truck.
He told police he had been thinking about setting the fire for a while and “needed a release.” He also said he wanted to be able to respond to the fire to put it out. He did not confess to any other fires.
Old Monroe Fire Chief Chris Blevins said he dismissed Grigsby immediately upon learning of the charges.
“We pride ourselves in helping members of our community,” he said. “Mr. Grigsby is accused of a crime and will be brought to justice.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect spelling of the suspect's middle name. This version has been corrected.