Former City Mayor Accused of Setting Fire in Monroeville, Alabama

MONROEVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- Frisco City's former mayor, accused of starting a fire that destroyed much of his community's downtown, threatened to burn down his pharmacy rather than see his wife get any part of it in a divorce, an ex-employee testified.

Oscar William ''Billy'' McCrory, 62, is charged with second-degree arson in connection with a Nov. 14, 2001 fire that damaged three buildings. McCrory could face two to 20 years in prison if convicted in the trial, which continued Thursday.

A former employee at Peoples Drugs, Jessica Byrd, testified Wednesday that she quit working at McCrory's business months before the fire, but continued to visit the store to see a co-worker.

Byrd said McCrory ''acted strangely'' and seemed bitter about the divorce. She also testified her former boss cleaned out the safe in the weeks before the fire.

Byrd said piles of paper in more than 10 large garbage bags lay on the floor at the back of the store, the location where an officer testified the fire started.

Witnesses testified that Peoples Drugs had been closed for a couple of weeks at the time of the fire, but some saw McCrory entering and later leaving the store just before firefighters spotted smoke pouring from the heart pine building.

State Deputy Fire Marshal James Graham said his investigation turned up burn patterns on wood in the rear of the store and on the floor that indicated a liquid accelerant was used to start the fire.

Defense attorney Chris King suggested a trash pile burning behind the stores caused the fires, but firefighter Paul Brown later testified there was no trash burning in back and no windows were open at the rear of the store as the fire burned inside.