Franklin, N.C. Man Arrested On Federal Arson Charge
Defendant Is Charged with Igniting Grape Cove and Jones Creek Fires in Macon Co.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Keith Eugene Mann, 49, of Franklin, N.C. was arrested today on federal arson charges, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. A federal criminal complaint filed this afternoon in U.S. District Court, charges Mann with one count of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire.
U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Steven F. Ruppert, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigation, Southern Region and Sheriff Robert L. Holland of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.
According to allegations in the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, on October 27, 2016, a wildfire was reported on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Road 388, commonly referred to as Board Tree Road, which is in Macon Co., and within the Nantahala National Forest. The fire was named “Grape Cove.” Court documents allege that the initial investigation of the fire determined that it was set intentionally. Additional investigation revealed that five other fires had been set in close proximity to the Grape Cove Fire, however they appeared to have gone out on their own. As alleged in court documents, over the course of the investigation of these small fires, law enforcement located several wooden stem matches. USFS firefighters conducted suppression of the wildfire, which burned approximately fifteen acres.
According to allegations contained in filed court documents, on November 22, 2016, a wildfire was reported at the end of U.S. Forest Service Road 763, commonly referred to as Jones Creek Road, by someone who identified himself as “Keith Mann.” USFS firefighters responded to the fire and took immediate suppression action. The fire was contained at approximately one acre and was named “Jones Creek.” As alleged in the criminal complaint, law enforcement became aware that a suspicious vehicle, identified as a mid-sized Chevrolet pickup, had been observed in the area.
According to allegations in the complaint, on November 23, 2016, law enforcement returned to the fire site. While there, law enforcement observed a small cardboard box located at the origin of the fire, with numerous burned wooden stemmed matches next to the box. According to allegations in the charging document, on the same day, law enforcement identified the caller who placed the call to Macon County 911 to report the second fire as the defendant, Keith Mann. Law enforcement made contact with Mann who admitted to setting the fires both on Board Tree Road and on Jones Creek Road.
The defendant had his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell. Mann’s detention hearing has been set for Monday, December 5, 2016.
The charge of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire carries a mandatory penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The U.S. Forest Service is leading the investigation assisted by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Richard Edwards is in charge of the prosecution.