Cleburne County Sheriff’s deputies early last Friday arrested Erick Thomas Keith Barnes and Joey Michael Craven, both 28, after they confessed to burning down three houses late last Thursday night. The two also confessed to setting fire to the former home of Craven’s grandmother this past December, said Michael Gore, fire investigator with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department.
The two men remain in county jail on $144,000 bond, Gore said.
Hollis Crossroads volunteer firefighters were responding to a structure fire at a vacant house at 9:21 p.m. on the intersection of Cleburne County Roads 13 and 36 when Fireman Nick Deese happened upon a second vacant house ablaze at the intersection of Alabama 9 and Cleburne County Road 36, said Dan Hopkins, chief of the Hollis Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department.
Hopkins directed Heflin and Micaville Volunteer Fire Departments to the original blaze while his department responded to the second.
Barnes and Craven were found standing by a vehicle at the second fire, Hopkins said. They claimed to have information on vehicles driving by and Hopkins asked them to stay until deputies arrived, he said.
While Investigator Gore and Tim Gossage, chief sheriff’s deputy, questioned the two men, a third structure fire call came in from a vacant log cabin on Cleburne County Road 77, Hopkins said. The two men had a “slight odor of alcohol” but weren’t drunk by Gore’s estimation.
Barnes and Craven confessed to setting fire to the three vacant homes within a few hours of interviewing, Gore said. Their first intention was to steal copper wiring from one of the houses, Gore said. The wiring had already been stolen and the two Eastaboga men ended up setting fire to the house, the investigator said.
After confessing to the three Thursday night arsons, the men told deputies they burned down Craven’s grandmother’s old home last December. That fire occurred at 8 a.m. and had previously been ruled an electrical fire.
“They just came out there with the rest of them. I’m not sure why, unless they just wanted to get it off their chest,” Gore said.
Barnes told investigators that he was a pyromaniac during his interview, Gore said.
Both Gore and Chief Hopkins were glad the two men were caught on the scene. It’s likely the two would’ve continued burning down houses, Gore said. He noted there are many vacant houses in that area, including one across the street from one of the fires they set.