LOGANVILLE, Ga -- For the past two months residents of a Loganville neighborhood have been victims of a frightening crime. Some of them changed their way of life to be safe and secure in their homes. They just found out their fears were for nothing.
On January 31, 2013, one of their neighbor's homes burned to the ground. The neighbor, Jonathan Smith, 37, who lived in the home with his girlfriend and her two children, told police a horrifying story.
He told them two suspects, a man and a woman, broke into his home and set it on fire. Smith told police he fired gunshots at the suspects as they fled in a white SUV. Neighbors heard the gunshots.
On Thursday Gwinnett County arson investigators arrested Smith. They said his story didn't add up and they charged him with arson for setting the fire. "Through the course of questioning while he was here at fire headquarters, they had enough to go on to make charges," said Lieutenant Colin Rhoden.
Lt. Rhoden said he hopes the arrest will give residents closure. "I'm sure there's been a degree of unease, or they have been uneasy in that neighborhood ever since the fire back in January," he said.
Adeline Lee said the incident changed her life. "It concerned all of us," she said. "We were not sure what was going on and we wanted to make sure we would all be safe."
"You start making sure you've got the proper alarm systems and you know even guns, because you don't know," Lee added.
There were some neighbors who had suspicions about Smith's story from the beginning. Stefanie Palik said the fired started at around noon. "Somebody's not going to break in at noon knowing there's lots of people here all the time," she said.
One thing they all agree on is that Smith's arrest is a relief. "We're very happy that he's not coming back because I would probably move if he was," Palik said.
"We never had this happen and so now it makes us a little bit more comfortable knowing that the police got who it was and we can go back to living," Lee said.
Smith's girlfriend and her two children were not at home when the fire was set. Smith is charged with Arson, False Report of a Crime, Theft by Deception and Cruelty to Animals. His girlfriend's three cats and a dog died in the fire.
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