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Arrests made for starting fire that destroyed buildings, vehicles at Car City

The Coffee County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference Thursday morning to announce the Tuesday arrest of suspects in the fire at the Car City dealership on U.S. Highway 231 South about a quarter mile across the Pike County line into Coffee County.

Chief Deputy Ronnie Whitworth, of the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, said the fire occurred around 5 p.m. on Jan. 12. After a thorough investigation, the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed the fire that destroyed three buildings and numerous vehicles was arson. Fire damage has been estimated at upward of three-quarters of a million dollars.

Whitworth said Dezarae Lashay Wiggins, 30, of Clio, and Charles Edward Jones, 45, of Clio, have been arrested and are being held in the Coffee County Jail. Bond has been set at $60,000.

Both Wiggins and Jones have been charged with two counts of second-degree arson. Jones has been charged with two counts theft of property and Wiggins is charged with one count theft of property.

Other charges are pending, Whitworth said.

Nine area fire department responded to the Car City fire. Agencies involved in the investigation as to the cause of the fire included the Alabama Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Alabama Fire Marshals, Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said he was asked by Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton to attended a Task Force meeting into the cause of the fire that included state and federal officials and the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office.

“Sheriff Sutton felt information we might have could be beneficial in solving the case,” Thomas said. “We believed, from the beginning that Charles Jones would be a person of strong interest. He had a past relationship with the owner of the car dealership.”

Jones had previously confessed to the theft of catalytic converters from Car City. Also, on a warrant out of Chilton County, he was forbidden to carry a firearm.

Sgt. Investigator Kevin Childs, of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, saw Jones in a convenience store in Brundidge and arrested him on the firearm’s charge, Thomas said.

“A few days later, Dezarae Wiggins contacted Sgt. Childs and told him Jones wanted to talk to him. Childs and members of the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office went to Chilton County on Jan. 15 to talk with Jones. At that time, he confessed to arson at Car City and to the theft of 40 catalytic converters. He was arrested out of Chilton County.

“It was a good outcome and everyone involved did a good job in bringing justice to this crime,” Thomas said. “Bob Williams, who recently retired from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, came back to work with us because he had information that would be relevant to the case. It pays to know people in your home area that you can talk to and get information that could help solve a crime. Knowing Jones and his background gave us a heads-up in the investigation. We were proud to be able to provide information that helped solve this crime.”