Fire at veteran’s Marion home ruled arson; $5,000 reward offered for info

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MARION – Two house fires in Marion have been ruled arson, and the most recent fire happened last week while an elderly couple was sleeping.

“I mean, almost instantly filled with smoke,” said Thomas Johnson, the homeowner.

Johnson and his wife have lived in their North Keal Street home for more than 20 years. Last Wednesday, the two woke up to a loud explosion.

“I thought it was a mortar, I’m in Vietnam. I thought it was a mortar,” said Johnson.

Within seconds, the couple made it to the back door and got out safely. It didn’t take long for this fire scene to turn into a crime scene.

“Burn up your own stuff, not somebody else’s,” said the homeowners’ son, Duane Johnson.

Marion fire investigators say someone went up to the home and used something to set it on fire. The fire marshal thinks the Johnsons’ home was randomly hit.

“It’s not fair. It’s not right,” said Marion Fire Marshal Brad Myers.

Two weeks before the North Keal fire, there was another house fire less than two miles away. Investigators believe someone intentionally set a vacant home on fire on West 3rd Street.  It took less than 30 seconds for the home to be fully engulfed.

 “You can tell these people have complete disregard for human safety and life,” said Myers.

Both house fires happened in the middle of the night. Investigators don’t believe these two arsons are connected. They’re looking through nearby surveillance footage for clues in both incidents. 

“Somebody had to have seen something, heard something. Somebody needs to be held accountable,” said Duane.

There is a pile of burnt belongings in the yard, and much of the front porch is destroyed. There’s even more damage inside the home, but for Thomas, it’s even deeper.  

“I lost 16 buddies in Vietnam, I haven’t cried for a long time, but I’ve cried,” said Thomas.

A heartbroken Navy veteran is now waiting on repairs and wondering who and why. Years after his service, Johnson still proves he’s stronger than most. He’s already forgiven the stranger who did this.

“And I believe that little black book, and that’s the book I’m going to live by,” said Johnson.

Both properties have insurance. If you know anything about either of the cases, call 1-800-382-4628. There is a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

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