The Columbus County fire marshal is offering a reward of up to a thousand dollars for information leading to an arrest in the arson case surrounding Senator Soles and Allen Strickland. If you have any information, you're asked to call the fire marshal or the SBI branch located in the Columbus County Sheriff's Office. The house that burned belonged to a 17-year-old named Allen Strickland, who claims that house was paid for by Senator R.C. Soles. The story has raised a lot of questions about the nature of their relationship. It's also raised some legal questions, like is a 17-year-old allowed to live by himself? Seventeen-year-old Allen Strickland holds the deed to the house in Tabor City which is part of an arson investigation. Strickland's father passed away years ago, and his mother lives in another part of the state. Strickland doesn't have a job, and tells us that his attorney, Senator Soles, paid for, among other things, his house, his corvette, and his generous allowance. "R.C. said ‘I'll make you a deal… if you go to school, I’ll put a roof over your head, and put food in the refrigerator’ and I said that sounds like a deal to me,” Strickland said. Strickland moved into the house a few months ago, and tells us that Senator Soles has been paying for him to have his own apartment since he was 15. While it's not illegal for a minor to own property in North Carolina, Department of Social Services officials tell us it is illegal for a minor to live alone. "There are all sorts of issues that come up for juveniles, and that's why there's a specific age limit, not that 18 is the magic age by which they become adults and know everything, but by law, a parent or caretaker is responsible for a juvenile until they are 18,” said Wanda Marino of the Department of Social Services. You might be wondering who Strickland's legal guardian is. So are we. Strickland tells us he was raised by his aunt, and he lives across the street from his grandmother, but we're told neither one of them is his legal guardian. We've received reports that a woman in South Carolina is legally responsible for Strickland, but we're still trying to get that confirmed. If it's true, is hard to imagine that she could be keeping a very close eye on him from so many miles away. "It's important for a juvenile to receive supervision because they are still learning, and developing into an adult, and there are many things that a juvenile can encounter, such as, when you are becoming an adult, you are learning what is proper and what is not, and that's why we have caretakers to give us that direction and that guidance in making decisions,” Marino said. Allen Strickland said he actually did have a parental figure living with him in his house until recently. Vicky Jordan helped raise Strickland, but the teen says Senator Soles told Allen she had to leave. "She stayed with me about five weeks, and I talked to Mr. Soles on a Sunday, and he told me if I didn't have her out on Sunday night, on Monday, he wasn't going to give me no money before he went to Raleigh,” Strickland said. Vicky Jordan said about the situation, "My concern is why would a senator want a 17-year-old kid living by himself and not having a mother figure in the house with him?" We've been trying to reach the Columbus County Department of Social Services to find out if they've received reports about Strickland’s living situation, and to see if they're investigating. So far, our calls haven't been returned. We've also been trying to reach Senator Soles for weeks. He's failed to return about a dozen phone calls, and yesterday, when we paid a visit to his office in Tabor City, we were asked to leave the property.
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