Man suspected in multiple fires in Lenoir, Little River

Charges filed in 3 so far
May. 11, 2014 @ 08:17 AM

A Lenoir man who was charged Wednesday with setting two fires off ABC Court last month had been seen in the area of at least seven of 11 fires set in Lenoir and the Little River community since late November, according to court records.

Josh Wesley Samuel Price, 40, of Mill Pond Road in Lenoir first was arrested about 9:30 p.m. Dec. 18 after Maj. David Anderson of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office was passing the intersection of Taylorsville Road and Log Cabin Place, saw a fire being set and quickly caught up to Price, records showed.

But Price had already been under suspicion since Nov. 21, when there were three brush fires set: one about 12:15 p.m. along the access road in front of Lowe's Home Improvement off U.S. 321, where the store's security video shows a four-door Nissan pickup like Price's leaving the parking lot moments before the fire; about 1:30 p.m. along Brush Mountain Road, where a man who knows Price saw him driving away from where the fire started; and about 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Taylorsville Road and Brush Mountain Road, where a person called 911 and reported seeing a man kneeling by a truck like Price's and setting a fire, records showed.

On Dec. 16, a Forest Service investigator arriving at a fire at 1350 Wilkesboro Blvd. saw a blue Nissan pickup parked within 200 yards of the fire and at an angle that would allow the driver to watch firefighters arrive, court records showed. The investigator headed toward the truck, which then pulled away and drove down Lower Creek Road. When the officer caught up and stopped the truck, Price was driving it and appeared nervous but denied knowing anything about the fire.

After his Dec. 18 arrest, investigators searched his truck and found a lighter under the driver's seat, 10 other butane lighters, matchbooks and box matches, candles, fireworks and a police scanner, according to search warrant documents. There was an additional search warrant document in the court files, but it was ordered seal by the court Dec. 23.

Price was released from jail Dec. 20. Among the conditions of his release was that he not possess any cigarette lighters, matches or any device that could be used to set a fire.

Sometime after Price was released, N.C. Forest Service investigators got a warrant allowing them to attach a GPS device to Price's truck, and on Jan. 16 data from the device showed that he had been driving on U.S. 64 toward the Alexander County line shortly before a fire started there about 7:50 p.m. and was driving back the other way shortly after the fire was reported, records showed.

On April 1, three Forest Service officers were tailing Price, waiting for a chance to replace the GPS battery, when they saw him stop his truck in the parking lot of Aldi on Wilkesboro Boulevard, get out and get something from his back seat, then drive out of the parking lot by its exit on ABC Court, and the officers then found a small fire where Price had been stopped, records said.

On April 24, security video from the ABC store on ABC Court shows Price leaving the store and walking in the direction of an area where a fire was set moments later.

On April 30, at the request of Forest Service investigators, Price's bond was revoked.

He now faces three counts of felony setting fire to woodland, grassland or brush land. His bond is set at $30,000 secured.