By Patrick Yost
Two men are in custody and face arson charges after a property manager of a Morgan County estate found five cabins burned to the ground.
Three children, one near death authorities said, were also taken into protective custody following the arrests.
According to Chief Deputy Keith Howard, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Carl Johnson, 25, Chicago was arrested on Tuesday, Jan. 7 and charged with first degree arson, construction and giving false name. Maynard Ray Moses, 29, Madison was arrested the same day and charged with first degree arson, cruelty to children and burglary.
Howard said the arson charges related to the destruction of five cabins on a Morgan County estate that fronts Bethany Road. A property manager on the estate notified authorities on Monday, Jan. 6 that the cabins had been destroyed by fire. Howard said the cabins were positioned next to a creek on the property and were part of a seven cabin complex. The two cabins that were not destroyed were separated by the other buildings by a creek, he said.
Howard said after authorities were alerted of the alleged arson, Morgan County Arson Investigator Daniel Pritchett and a Georgia Arson investigator were called to the scene and determined the fires were no accident. “There was an initial determination that since there was no power to the five cabins we had an arson,” Howard said.
Johnson and Ray were both arrested at an RV at Country Boy’s RV Park, Eatonton Road. Howard said Sunday night prior to the arrests, authorities had received complaint calls from residents at the park regarding a suspicious vehicle parked near a woodbine and creek at the park. During that investigation, Howard said, officers spoke with a woman at the park who said the vehicle belonged to acquaintances of hers, including Ray. Officers, Howard said, spoke with Ray over the phone and found Ray and four others at Waffle House. All five persons claimed “sovereign citizenship” and refused to cooperate with authorities. “The claimed to be sovereign citizens and did not have to show identification to the deputies.”
Monday afternoon after the fire, authorities followed footprints from the cabin site near the creek to the RV park. That night they executed a search warrant on the woman’s RV and, Howard said, collected evidence that allegedly placed Johnson and Ray at the cabins prior to the fire.
During the execution of the search warrant deputies observed three children, aged 5 months, 7 months and 3-years-old that appeared, Howard said, “malnourished.” The Department of Family and Children Services were called to the RV. Several hours later, Howard said, DFCS returned and took custody of the children. All three children were taken to Morgan Medical Center after “DFCS determined they were malnourished and neglected,” Howard said.
The oldest child was examined and transported to Egleston Childrens Hospital and weighed approximately 14 pounds. “We were informed on Wednesday that had the child not been traded there was a good chance the child would have been dead within a week.”
Howard said the investigation is on-going. Authorities did not place a value on the destruction of the cabins.