FIRST ON 3: Jury says Strickland not guilty of arson
WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — A Columbus County jury says a teen with ties to former Sen. R.C. Soles is not guilty. It did not take long for jurors to acquit Allen “Frog” Strickland on charges of arson and trying to rip off his insurance company.
Despite a strong closing argument by the prosecution it took the jury less than an hour before finding Strickland not guilty of arson and trying to collect money from his insurance company.
Strickland’s home in Tabor City caught fire in July 2009. An investigation soon pointed to arson. The state claimed the teen started the blaze. He was also accused of trying to collect from his insurance company.
Thursday afternoon a jury of eight women and four men found the teen not guilty of arson and attempting to collect property through false pretenses. While the jury deliberated Strickland appeared to show no emotion…
Strickland’s attorney Craig Wright had no comment as well, even after the verdict of not guilty.
There were no smiles for the prosecution, but they say they accept the jury’s decision.
“Whatever the 12 people of the community say, that’s what we abide by,” Assistant District Attorney Fred Gore said. “I think justice has been done today regardless of what decision was made. The state did its job presenting its case to members of the community. They decided the case, and we stand by their decision.”
In closing arguments the prosecution told the jury that Strickland was the only one inside the home and that no one else could have poured the gasoline found on the sofa in teen’s living room. Arson investigators testified that the fire started on the center cushion of the sofa.
The defense claimed someone could have thrown the gas through a window near the sofa. Strickland told investigators that people around Tabor City were jealous of him.
“This whole town is jealous of how I got the house, how I got my car, how I got money and all. Everybody just can’t stand it.” Strickland said the day after the fire. “Whoever done it done it with the intentions of me getting killed.”
He got the house from Soles, who bought it to encourage Strickland to stay in school.
WWAY caught up with one of the jurors, who said she and the other members of the jury just thought the evidence showed that Strickland was not guilty.