Vernon man guilty of setting fire to SUV twice in one month

MIKE CAZALAS, State Attorney’s Office, 14th Circuit of Florida

A Vernon man was found guilty as charged Tuesday, May 21, of setting fire to the same SUV twice within a month, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Wiley Coleman Armstrong, 67, was found guilty of two counts of second-degree arson. Circuit Court Judge Russell Roberts set sentencing for June 19. Each charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Jurors deliberated for about 15 minutes after hearing the evidence presented by Holmes County Chief Prosecutor Jacob Cook before returning their verdict.

Cook called six witnesses, including Investigator Rudy Citron with the Bureau of Fire, Arson & Explosives Investigations, and presented evidence proving the defendant was responsible for setting fire to the same SUV in January and February 2023.

Testimony showed a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe was set on fire on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, at a Bonifay repair shop. Video surveillance showed a man approaching the vehicle, opening the rear passenger door and pouring what appeared to be an ignitable liquid into the vehicle before setting it on fire.

While reviewing surveillance footage for the February fire, video was found showing that the same man approached the same vehicle and did the same thing to it on Jan. 10, 2023. But on that date, when the defendant shut the rear door, the fire was smothered and not discovered at the time.

Investigators were able to identify the defendant as the man in the videos.

Overall damage to the business from the incidents was estimated at more than $30,000.