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Man, 3 teenagers charged in third fire investigation; previously accused of setting fires at historic Graham mill, Green Level home

BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — A man and three teenagers previously charged with setting fires at a historic mill in Graham and a Green Level home are now being charged in a third fire investigation, according to the Burlington Police Department.

Fire at Western Electric Company in Graham

Police say that Wayland Heath Phillips, 22, of Graham, and the three teens; ages 13, 14 and 15; were involved in setting a fire at a Western Electric Company building.

Wayland Heath Phillips (Alamance County Sheriff's Office)
Wayland Heath Phillips (Alamance County Sheriff’s Office)

The facility is a 22-acre manufacturing site with 16 buildings located at 204 Graham-Hopedale Road in Burlington.

Invesitgators received an anonymous community tip placing Phillips and the three teens at Western Electric on Nov. 12 and Nov. 24.

Police say that the group set fire to the building on at least one occasion.

Phillips is being charged with felony breaking and entering and felony burning a certain building from Nov. 12. He is also being charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering and misdemeanor discharging a firearm in city limits from Nov. 24.

Phillips has not been given a bond and is being held at the Alamance County Detention Center.

Investigators say that petitions were filed against each of the teenagers for felony breaking and entering and felony burning a certain building.

The 14-year-old is facing an additional charge of misdemeanor breaking and entering from Nov. 24.

The fire that was set at Western Electric on Nov. 12 damaged one interior room and did not spread to any other parts of the building.

Graham police and Alamance County deputies identified Phillips and the teenagers as the suspects in fires set at the Culp Weaving textile plant in Graham on Nov. 12 and a fire at a Green Level home on Nov. 13.

Burlington police extended thanks to the Graham Police Department,  Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, Alamance County Arson Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for assisting in the investigations.

Fire at Culp Weaving mill in Graham

For the second time in just over a year, the former Culp Weaving mill building in Graham caught fire on Nov. 12, destroying huge parts of the building. The building, located on the 300 block of East Parker Street, had been partially empty but also used for storage.

The building, which sits just hundreds of feet from homes, previously caught fire on Oct. 11, 2022. Graham Fire Department received the call around 9:15 p.m. from someone who lived near East Parker Street and said they thought heard an explosion.

Graham Mayor Jennifer Talley said the city has attempted to make the current property owners address safety concerns at the building since the previous fire at the property.

Fire at Green Level home

The following day, deputies were still investigating the fire in Graham on Nov. 13 when the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office says they learned of a “similar” fire.

At about 12:09 a.m., deputies responded to a fire at a home on the 900 block of Apple Blossom Lane in Green Level. The Green Level property, which was vacant at the time, shows significant fire damage.

Charges for previous fire investigations

Phillips has been charged with two counts each of felony burning certain buildings and felony breaking and entering, one each for the Green Level fire and the Graham fire.

The three teenagers are each charged with felony burning certain buildings in connection with the Green Level fire. A charge of breaking and entering against each teenager is pending.

“We were very, very lucky,” Talley said. “These were extremely dangerous fires. The risk not only to the general public but also our first responders is very concerning. It is very concerning that our young people look to be responsible for this, and posting things on social media bragging about this kind of behavior is something that we just don’t need in our community.”

3 different men charged in separate historic mill fire investigation

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The Alamance County Fire Marshall said that a working fire at the Carolina Mill was reported at around 4 a.m. on Nov. 25.

The building was “totally destroyed,” according to the fire marshall. No one was inside and the building has been vacant for years.

Deputies say the building was old and had oil on the floor that helped the fire get extremely hot. Several floors of the building collapsed in the blaze.

The Faucette Fire Department says that at one point the fire went to the 3-alarm level. 12 fire departments as well as several other Alamance County agencies responded to the fire as well as the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The vacant building was around 30,000 square feet in size and is considered to be a complete loss.

The Graham Fire Department says that roughly 290,000 gallons of water were used to battle the fire in a massive water shuttle operation by the Alamance County Fire Task Force.

Arrests

On Wednesday, Alamance County investigators followed up on a community tip in relation to the Carolina Mill fire.

Three men were eventually identified as the suspects. Deputies say they interviewed the trio and “determined they were responsible for the fire.”

The suspects were identified as James Riley Cockman, 21, of Gibsonville, Leyton James Lockemy, 20, of Burlington, and William Steven Holland, 20, of Gibsonville.

All three are being charged with felony breaking and entering and felony burning certain buildings.

Cockman was arrested on Wednesday at 11 p.m. and remains in custody under a $60,000 secured bond.

Lockemy was taken into custody on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and was released on a $25,000 secured bond.

Holland was arrested on Thursday at 6:09 a.m. and remains in custody under a $25,000 secured bond.

All three men will make a first appearance in the Alamance County District Court at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

The sheriff’s office extended thanks to the Alamance County Fire Marshall’s Office, the Faucette Fire Department, the Alamance County Fire Investigation Task Force, the ACSO Electronic Forensic Investigation Team, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshall for assisting in the case.

The case remains under investigation.

Anyone with information should contact the ACSO at (336) 570-6300 or Alamance County Crime Stoppers at (336) 229-7100. You can also submit a tip online.


Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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