Judge dismisses case against two men accused of setting Currituck
CURRITUCK, N.C. (AP) - A judge has dismissed the case against
two men charged with setting a fire to Currituck woodlands in
October 2001 that burned 500 acres and sent thick smoke over the
area for nearly a month.
Superior Court Judge W. Russell Duke dismissed the case against
Dewane Berry, 37, and Thomas J. Mason, 36, after hearing the
state's argument last week, said defense attorney Mike Sanders of
Elizabeth City.
"It was a difficult case because they were not able to produce
any evidence of how the fire started," Sanders said.
Farm workers in a nearby field saw a red pickup truck with the
defendants in it leaving the area as two different fires, one in
brush and one in the wooded area, were burning, said District
Attorney Frank Parrish.
"In my experience, accidental fires don't have multiple points
of origin," Parrish said. "I've been doing this a long time, and
this is the first time in about 15 years that I've had a case
One of the state's main witnesses, Adam Jones, had driven a
pickup truck to the area, a remote woodland west of Shawboro, with
the defendants the day the fire was believed to have started,
Sanders said. But Jones testified that he had not seen anyone set
the fire and did not know how it started, Sanders said.
Adams testified that Berry and Mason got out of the truck
several times and that Berry had been in the bed of the truck at
one time, Parrish said.
The fire was first reported Oct. 25 and quickly spread through
woodlands west of Shawboro. The heavy smoke traveled as far north
as Norfolk and as far south as Manteo.
The fire cost the state $1.1 million, according to a statement
from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural
Resources. There were no serious injuries and no dwellings damaged.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)