Suspected Luray Arsonist Behind Bars

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

A spree of unexplained fires has had Luray on edge since October.

One by one, downtown buildings were being torched and for the longest time, no suspects were named. Now, with the arrest of 40-year-old "Eddie" Edgar J. Poole, Luray Police Chief Page Campbell said everyone could sleep better at night.

"It's a sigh of relief for me as police chief and also for everyone who lives in and around this area," Campbell said.

Campbell says Poole is linked to the fires at the Campbell Street apartments and the Mick or Mack building. Eight other suspicious fires in the downtown area are still under investigation. But police say Poole is a strong suspect in those arsons, as well.

The last fire happened at the home and business of Jimmy Whiteside.

"I'm just glad to be alive and my wife too and we were awfully lucky to come out of a mess like this," Whiteside said.

Whiteside's barbershop sits on Main Street facing the alley where Poole lived. Whiteside and other arson victims said they knew Poole and were surprised to hear of his possible involvement in the case.

"I have heard and we suspect that he is mentally challenged," said Chief Campbell.

Some say he couldn't possibly have set all the fires on his own. But police say special investigators have had their eye on Poole for months.

"We have had this subject under surveillance and investigation for some time," Chief Campbell admitted.

Poole will be arraigned Feb. 27. Extended Web Coverage

Arson Facts

  • Arson is the second leading cause of death by fire in the United States, exceeded only by losses due to smoking.

  • Arson is the leading cause of property damage due to fires.

  • One of every four fires that occur in the U.S. each year, about a half million, are arson.

  • Each year, more than 90 percent of all civilian deaths in incendiary and suspicious structure fires occur in residential properties.

  • Direct property damage from arson totals more than $3 billion in a typical year. One out of every four dollars lost to fire is the result of arson.

  • Only 16 percent of arson offenses lead to arrest, and only two percent of those arrested are convicted.

  • Preliminary results of a new study by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggest that between one-fifth to one-fourth of reported arson cases in major American cities are drug-related.

  • Arson is the leading cause of fire in houses of worship, accounting for 25 percent of church and related property fires.

  • 53 percent of all arsons are set by youths under age 18.

Source: contributed to this report

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