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Update: Ex-FBI profiler helps nab serial arsonists

11:05 PM, Nov 18, 2012   |    comments
  • Shelby McMillan
  • Mathew Dilbeck
  • Derek Allen Belyea
  • Devon Marie Daugh
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Arson investigators recieved guidance from a former FBI profiler during their search for a group of serial arsonists.

Authorities have arrested four young adults and one juvenile in a multiple agency serial arson sting involving more than twenty fires.

Knoxville Fire and Explosions Investigator Captain Travis Kincaid says they called upon Dr. David Icove, who currently works as a UT professor.

"It was really scary how dead on he was on the age and where he thought it would happen again," says Kincaid.

They used Icove's analysis to lay out a surveillance area. Saturday night Kincaid says an officer spotted a fire in the vicinity, and a black car nearby.

Kincaid was able to spot the car as well, and followed the suspects to a Strolling Drive home.

"They were so scared when they got out of the car, they kept it in gear and the car kept going,"says Kincaid.

He says they confessed shortly after. The situation is exceptionally unique, Kincaid says, because of the relatively large and tight knit group starting the fires.

The string of fires started in mid-October in Northwest Knoxville, marking the first serial arsonist since the early 90's. 

Kincaid especially credits the firefighters who responded to so many of the recent incidents, keeping them from growing.

He says they put their safety at risk, especially considering the group's penchant for creating explosive devices.

"It went to spraying accelerant in yards and burning vulgarities in people's yards, to throwing Molotov cocktails and other types of explosives," says Kincaid of the progressively worsening fires.

Officials said a vacant house on Keck Road was burned using an accelerant last Sunday.

There was also a scarecrow that was tied to an interstate overpass and set on fire, along with several nuisance fires involving piles of leaves and brush.

Investigators set up a sting Saturday morning. They spotted three fires and followed the suspects back to Strolling Drive where they made the arrests.    

Authorities arrested Devon Marie Daugherty, 19, Shelby McMillan, 19, Mathew Dilbeck, 20, and Derek Allen Belyea, 19, on multiple charges. A juvenile also faces charges but officials did not release his or her name. The group faces charges including arson, possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of drug paraphernalia.

All of the fires were within a five mile radius of Strolling Drive in Northwest Knoxville, where three of the suspects live. Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson D.J. Corcoran says the fires were becoming increasingly more bold.

Knoxville Fire Department's Arson Division, Knox County Fire Investigation Unit, Knox County Sheriff's Office and Knox County Fire Marshals Office worked together in this operation.

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