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Priceville man linked to July fire

By Seth Burkett
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2355

PRICEVILLE — Police wrapped up a 10-month-long investigation into a house fire with the arrest of one of the victim's neighbors on an arson charge this week.

Morgan County sheriff deputies arrested Timothy Roy McNutt, 29, of 185 Red Bud Lane on Saturday on a warrant issued by Priceville police.

Police Chief Billy Peebles said his department performed an extensive investigation into the July 20 fire at the home of Sammy Keaton in the 1900 block of East Upper River Road.

Following a disagreement with Keaton, McNutt set fire to Keaton's living room, Peebles said.

"It looks like he used some type of accelerant. He poured it on the living room floor and lit it," Peebles said.

"(Keaton) has been able to rebuild, but of course he's still mad," Peebles added. "You don't just go and set fire to someone's house because you're mad at them."

The afternoon before the fire, Keaton said, McNutt came to his house asking for a ride but Keaton refused.

Keaton said he "got ugly" with McNutt when he couldn't get him to leave.

What came after

"The next afternoon he came up to me wanting me to apologize for being ugly to him and I told him I wasn't going to apologize," Keaton said.

"He left and waited around at the neighbor's until we left and went somewhere. A few minutes after we left, that's when the house caught on fire.

"We had just gotten to Decatur and got a call that the house was on fire," Keaton said. "I had seen him standing around over there across the street and I told my friend, 'He's up to something.' He said 'Well, maybe he'll just go over and knock your trash can over or something.' ... When you've only seen somebody a time or two, you don't expect them to come burn your house down."

Keaton said a neighbor, Chris Lambert, used a water hose to fight the blaze until the fire department arrived.

911 call

Across the street, 12-year-old Whitney White saw the fire and called 911.

The fire damaged the living room and hallway, and smoke damage extended throughout the house, Keaton said.

The worst part, he said, was losing items with sentimental value, such as family pictures and home videos.

"You continually run into things from time to time, like the smell of a burnt object, and it reminds you of it like it was yesterday," Keaton said.

"I wouldn't wish it on anybody, even him," Keaton said of McNutt.

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