Student Arrested in Arson Case at Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech University Police announced today the arrest of a suspect in the deliberately set fire in a men's residence hall last month.

Arrested was Chad Butcher, one of the residents of the room that burned. Butcher, 20, was a freshman living in Browning Hall Room 107 when the fire was set. He has since withdrawn from the university.

Butcher, who is scheduled to appear in Putnam County's Criminal Court today for ab initial court appearance, was booked into the Putnam County Jail Nov. 17 and released on a $25,000 bond a few hours later. He is being charged with aggravated arson, a Class A felony that could bring a 15- to 25-year sentence if convicted.

The arrest was made when the Putnam County grand jury returned a sealed indictment after TTU Police Chief Gay Shepherd presented evidence Nov. 13. Campus officials learned of the arrest late yesterday.

Police and fire officials believe Butcher set the fire around 8 a.m. Oct. 25. The fire, which was contained to the dorm room Butcher shared with a roommate, destroyed everything inside. The roommate was not present at the time, and no one was injured. The residence hall was evacuated, and the Cookeville fire department extinguished the blaze.

Rumors and speculations of the fire being targeted as a hate crime began when Butcher claimed to the media that the fire was set because he was openly gay. Campus police and administrators launched a full investigation, and ultimately presented evidence that Butcher set the fire himself.

"Of course, we take all allegations and complaints of harassment of any type very seriously," said TTU spokesperson Monica Greppin. "We did a complete investigation into the charges, and ultimately found that this was not a hate crime. Our campus police and the state arson investigators did a thorough job solving this case."

The university regularly schedules a variety of programs for students and Residential Life staff dealing with issues of harassment and other crimes.

TTU Police officials will not release details of the investigation until after the trial, a date for which has not been. Butcher's next scheduled court appearance is March 27.