WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — The jury has been seated, and today the first witnesses took the stand in the arson case of Allen “Frog” Strickland. The teen is a former client and friend of former state Sen. R.C. Soles.
The prosecution says Strickland set fire in 2009 to his own home, which Soles bought, in order to collect insurance money.
There were no cameras allowed in the courtroom on day two, which started with two alternate jurors being seated. Opening statements quickly followed.
District Attorney Lynn Wilkie told the jury of nine women and five men, “You will be presented evidence from experts that the fire started inside the house and that he (Strickland) was the only one inside.”
Strickland’s attorney Craig Wright told the jury in his opening statement that evidence will show why it is not logical for Strickland to burn his home.
After opening statements, the jury heard from a former Tabor City Police officer and two Tabor City volunteer firefighters, who responded to the burning home.
Firefighter Ryland Browder told the jury the front door of the home was engulfed in flames.
“The only thing I could see through the door, ’cause it was dark, is that the fire was inside the home,” Browder said.
Firefighter Tommy Lee Spivey told jurors he and another colleague were the first to enter the home with a fire hose. When they climbed to the second floor Spivey said he was confused by the bed in the room.
“Bed was made, like when you wake up in the morning time,” he said.
Strickland claims he was asleep in that bed and was awakened by smoke the night of the fire. Spivey also said he smelled gasoline in the home.
Jurors also heard from a 911 operator who answered the emergency call from strickland. They also heard the call itself.
The trial resumes tomorrow morning.