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Arson suspect faces 54 felony charges

By From staff reports

A Nicholas County man accused of setting dozens of fires is being held on $2.7 million bond.

Austin Lee Cox, 21, of Craigsville was arrested Sunday in Craigsville after a months-long investigation of arsons in the Summersville and Richwood areas.

Nicholas Sheriff Wetzel Bennett said Cox is suspected in 62 fires in Nicholas County from January to July. Several resulted in total loss of property.

"Those are just the ones we know about," Bennett said.

Bennett said Cox was suspected in a Mount Nebo fire where the home burned to the ground. Cox also was suspected of setting four or five fires in one night, the sheriff said.

He also is suspected in the fire that gutted the inside of Maloney's sports bar in Summersville. The restaurant closed for four months while repairs were made inside.

No one was injured in any of the fires.

"If we hadn't gotten him when we did, I'm afraid there would have been somebody hurt or killed," Bennett said. "He drove us crazy."

Sheriff's deputies worked with State Police and officers with the Summersville and Richwood police departments.

Bennett said Cox was not alone in his actions. Authorities are working to identify and locate others involved.

Cox faces 54 felony charges including 10 counts of first-degree arson, five counts of second-degree arson, 15 counts of destruction of property, nine counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree arson, three counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree arson and 12 counts of conspiracy to destroy property.

Each count carried a bond of $50,000. He remains at Central Regional Jail.

Anyone with information can contact the Nicholas Sheriff's Office at 304-872-7880.



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