Police, fire officials seek indictment in arson case

Police and fire officials announced today they have a suspect in the deliberately set fire of a campus residence hall room at Tennessee Tech University. They would not release the suspect's name.

TTU police, Cookeville police and the state bomb and arson investigators working together on the case say they have enough evidence to present a suspect to the grand jury and are seeking a sealed indictment. A sealed indictment means the suspect's name can not be released until an arrest is made.

According to the local district attorney's office, the case is expected to go to the grand jury Dec. 11 or 12, but arraignments issued by the jury will not be read out until Dec. 18.

"For obvious reasons, we can't elaborate any more on the case," said TTU Police Chief Gay Shepherd. "Arson is a serious crime, and we have been dedicated to solving this. We believe we know who set the fire, but we have to follow the legal process. Once we're legally able to release details, we will."

The fire was set Wednesday, Oct. 25, shortly after 8 a.m. While no one was injured, it did destroy a men's residence hall room on the first floor of Browning Hall. Two students lived in the room, but were not home at the time of the blaze. Fire alarms were functioning properly in the building, and all students were evacuated without incident.

University officials learned of the official cause of the fire Tuesday from the fire marshal's office, and all three agencies worked late into the night making sure they had a solid case. They say they believe rumors and speculations of the fire being targeted as a hate crime are unfounded, and hope to elaborate once an indictment is returned.