Seventeen-year-old Allen Strickland says Sen. R.C. Soles bought the house for him that went up in flames early Wednesday morning. The State Bureau of Investigation has been called in to look at a suspected case of arson at the house on March Avenue in Tabor City.
Strickland, called "Frog" by his family and friends, was inside sleeping early Wednesday morning, and woke up to a bedroom full of smoke. He says he had to jump out of an upstairs window to escape with his life. It appears the brand new house is a total loss. For now, Stricklan is staying with his grandmother who lives next door.
"My grandma, she's worried to death that whoever done it might go to her house and do it again because of me being there," he said.
There haven't been any arrests for the suspected arson, but fire investigators think this is an isolated incident. Still, people who live near the crime scene aren't exactly resting easy.
"I just hope they catch the person that done it," neighbor Sherry Nealey said.
"That's my main concern is they catch the person because if it's someone trying to hurt him, they need to be caught." Another big element in this story, the benefactor of the house.
Strickland is 17 years old and doesn't have a job or parents active in his life. He says Sen. Soles paid for his house, his Corvette, and a pair of four-wheelers, on top of giving him a generous allowance if Strickland agreed to finish school. WWAY has been been trying to reach Sen. Soles to confirm that for weeks.
Morning anchor Kevin Wuzzardo finally talked to the Senator on Tuesday, and this is what happened: Kevin: "On another matter, a young man named Allen Strickland told us that you've given him tens of thousands of dollars to pay for his house and his car, as part of an arrangement that if he finishes school, you'll buy him these things. Have you given him that money?:
Soles: "I cannot hear you."
Kevin: (Louder) "A young man named Allen Strickland told us that you've given him tens of thousands of dollars to pay for his house and his car."
Soles: "I cannot hear you, speak up."
Kevin: (Louder) "A young man named Allen Strickland - "
Soles: "Speak up."
Kevin: "Do you hear me, Senator?"
The phone then went dead. Sen. Soles had no problems hearing during the first nine minutes of the interview about the state budget, and he wasn't available when we called back after the line went dead. Strickland hasn't talked to Sen. Soles either.
"I've had no contact with him since Saturday when we had a falling out," Strickland said.
The entire Strickland family has been affected by the incident. His sister says she fears for his life. "Who could have done this? Who would have that spite on a 17-year-old child?," asked Cheyanne Strickland.
Cheyenne Strickland says her brother and the Senator have had a rocky relationship for some time. "He's threatened his life many times, and told him if you do not get off my driveway, and leave me alone, you're dead," Cheyanne told WWAY.
We will continue to reach out to Sen. Soles for comment. If you're wondering, Allen Strickland's home was covered by insurance.