Fire that damaged apartments may be arson

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

Two people forced out of their apartment because of a fire were arrested and charged with resisting an officer.

The Lenoir Fire Department received a report of a fire that started just before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at 309 Willow St. in a downstairs apartment occupied by Ryan Duane Olive, 33, and Mary Derr Keller, 53. The fire, which caused an estimated $85,000 in damage, is believed to have begun in a bedroom closet, said Lenoir Fire Capt. Kenny Nelson. Lenoir police believe the fire was intentionally set but are still investigating, police Capt. Couby Stilwell.

Olive was arrested shortly after firefighters arrived at the scene. Keller was arrested around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Both were charged with resisting, obstructing or delaying a public officer. Both refused officers' commands and interfered with the fire investigation, Stilwell said.

Firefighters were on the scene until 3:30 a.m.

Mike Hodge, 56, one of several people who lives in the upstairs apartment, said he saw smoke and rushed everybody out of the apartment. Three cats -- Little Bit, Alleycat and Rastus -- died in the fire.

The family is staying at the Red Roof Inn. Hodge said he is not sure if he will be able to move back into the house, owned by Robert E. Lee Jr.

"Our stuff can be replaced, but lives can't," he said. "We'll get by somehow."