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Farragut firebugs arrested

Johnathon Cody Baxter, 18, and Nathan Wayne Armstrong, 24, were arrested Monday, March 10, in connection with three fires set inside the Turkey Creek Wal-Mart off Parkside Drive.

“It was the fire investigation unit that got those guys,” said Brent Seymour of the Knoxville Fire Department. “A lot of people don’t realize that our fire investigators are bonded


“The Knoxville fire investigation unit and two investigators from the County fire investigation unit are the ones who made the arrest in the Farragut trailer park,” he added.

Armstrong appeared to be a Farragut resident. Baxter was staying in the trailer park with Armstrong and a relative, but his permanent residence appeared to be in Powell.

“You would think that’s where he went to school since the shirt he had on said ‘Powell Track and Field’ on it,” Seymour said.

The fires were set in the Turkey Creek Wal-Mart Friday, March 7, in the men’s clothing section, forcing the evacuation of more than 50 people.

“No one was injured in this, and we are very grateful for this, that no one was injured in the fires,” said Ashley Hardie, Wal-Mart’s home office spokesperson.

“The local authorities as well as the police department did show up and put out the fires, so we’re cooperating with them. I know they’re doing an investigation,” Hardie added.

Seymour said he was unable to comment about Baxter’s alleged motivation for setting the fires.

“Obviously until it goes to court, that’s not a lot of stuff we want to put out, just because we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the case,” he said.

As of Monday, March 17, Baxter and Armstrong were both still being held in jail in lieu of $75,000 and $35,000 bonds, respectively.

“Neither one of them have bonded out, so they’re both still in jail,” Martha Dooley, Knox County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said. Dooley added that she did not know whether either of them had retained a lawyer at that time.

Baxter was charged with aggravated arson and theft. Authorities believe that Baxter allegedly stole a lighter that may have been used to start the fires. Armstrong was charged with reckless endangerment and being an accessory after the fact.

Armstrong and Baxter will get a court date in felony court, “which is third sessions court of Knox County,” Seymour said.

“Typically what happens is they will be booked with a felony charge and … the judge will hear the case. They’ll have either a public defender or their own attorney, whatever they choose to do. And basically from there, the judge decides whether it’s worthy to go to trial or he’ll handle it there.

“But more than likely, unless something is worked out, he’ll send [the case] on to the grand jury and then to trial if the grand jury thinks there’s enough evidence to prosecute the case,” he added.


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