A Southeast Arkansas man and woman suspected of setting fire to an apartment building in Drew County on July 23 were arrested Friday in Detroit, Michigan while attempting to get passports to go to Canada, according to Lt. Tim Nichols, a criminal investigator with the Drew County Sheriff’s Office.
Nichols said Patrick Pippen and Michelle Spears were believed to have left the state shortly after allegedly setting fire to an apartment on July 23.
“The Drew County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with federal officials and are en route to Detroit to pick both Pippen and Spears up and bring them back to Drew County where they will be placed in jail awaiting first appearance,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the fire was set outside a duplex apartment during the early morning hours of July 23, around 4:30 am.
“Gas was poured from the front door of Apartment No. 2 and around the side to the back door,” Nichols said.
Shortly after fire occurred, Nichols said he and a deputy interviewed the occupant in the apartment who told them she’d had a conflict with Pippen and Spears earlier that evening.
Nichols said he went to Pippen’s workplace where Pippen denied the allegations and allowed Nichols to look inside his car.
“I smelled the odor of gas in the suspect’s vehicle,” Nichols said.
Pippen left work after speaking with Nichols and did not return, according to Nichols.
Meanwhile, Drew County Sheriff Mark Gober located a gasoline can down the road from the duplex.
Nichols said he then obtained video images showing the suspects purchasing a gasoline can at Walmart between 2:20 a.m. and 2:26 a.m. and another video showing the suspects filling a gasoline can at the EZ Mart convenience store with $3 worth of gas at 2:35 a.m.
Another video image shows a car resembling the Pippen and Spears vehicle pulling into the driveway of the duplex sometime after 2:35 a.m., according to Nichols.