COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Allen Strickland was found not guilty on two counts in court in Columbus County Thursday afternoon.
Strickland was charged in 2009 with fraudulently setting fire to a dwelling house and attempting to obtain property by false pretense. He is accused of setting fire to the home that former State Senator R.C. Soles bought him.
The young man went to trial in April for the arson charge, but a judge declared a mistrial in the case at the time because the video of an interview Strickland had with police about the fire surfaced.
Jury selection for the retrial began Monday, followed by opening arguments. A 911 operator, firefighters, and the owner of a security alarm system took the stand Tuesday, and a fire investigator with the SBI took the stand Wednesday.
The investigator said the fire was intentionally started by a flammable liquid on the middle cushion of a couch inside the home. A small gasoline can was found inside a garage about 15-feet from the property, but no containers or matches were found in the house.
Strickland's attorney, Craig Wright, argued the SBI dog used to sniff gasoline didn't smell Strickland. He also questioned why the young man would run upstairs to escape from his home if he started the fire on the first floor.
Strickland's attorney made a motion Thursday morning to dismiss the trial due to lack of evidence against his client. The judge, however, denied that request.
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