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Men accused of torching apartment building and watching it burn

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two men are pointing the finger at each other after being accused of torching an apartment building in eastern Kanawha County.

Douglas Williams II, 24, of Belva and Thomas Leon Johnson, 40, of Chesapeake were charged Wednesday morning with first-degree arson. Neither man is owning up to who set the blaze as they both told police that the other was responsible, according to criminal complaints filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court.

Jack Ice, Chesapeake's police chief, has been investigating the case since the Sept. 24 fire that destroyed the already vacant apartment building.

The Cornerstone Apartment building had been boarded up since a fire in April, said C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County Fire Coordinator.

Two suspects were seen on surveillance video at a nearby Foodland. Police say the cameras show the men walking toward the apartment building then walking back toward the store. The video also shows a suspect entering the store, stealing a can of tiki lamp fuel, and then going back to Johnson's nearby apartment, the complaint stated.

Ice and investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office spoke to Johnson a few days after the fire.

Johnson told investigators that he and Williams had been on the apartment building's second floor and that Williams was running down the hall with a burning bed sheet, the complaint stated.

Johnson told investigators they left the building and that Williams went to Foodland to steal the lamp fuel, according to the complaint. They put the fuel into a box at Johnson's home. Johnson's girlfriend, Belva Nomar, gave the can to the investigators.

Ice wrote in the complaint that the men watched the building burn and did nothing to report it.

Sigman said the building, which is said to have been worth more than $100,000, was destroyed in the fire. He said Chesapeake firefighters worked hard and were successful in keeping the blaze from spreading to a home next door.

"Thomas Leon Johnson was on the second floor of the Cornerstone Apartment complex along with (Williams), but blames the entire arson on Douglas E. Williams, II," Ice wrote. "But even after observing fire and smoke took absolutely no action to report this fire."

Investigators spoke with Williams on Oct. 3. He told authorities that he'd gone to the second floor of the building in search of Johnson but instead found smoke and fire in the hallway. He said he saw Johnson holding items used to set the fire. Both men are being held at South Central Regional Jail without bond. The investigation is ongoing.    


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