Suspicious fire burns Iraq War vet's home

Army Captain Charles Gatlin (Ret.)
Army Captain Charles Gatlin (Ret.)

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

DADEVILLE, AL (WSFA) - An Iraq War veteran who earned a Purple Heart is now dealing with a battle on the home front.  Last month, his family's dream home burned to the ground.  It happened on Murphy Dam Road, just outside of Dadeville in Tallapoosa County.  Investigators are treating the fire as suspicious.

Retired Army Captain Charles Gatlin and his wife, Ariana Del Negro, work as veterans advocates.  They were out of town when they found out about the fire.

"I was in the pentagon on 9/11 when the plane hit, I had a car bomb blow up in my face in Iraq, so I've walked the edge quite a bit," Gatlin said.  "But I've never ever had this happen."

Investigators consider the fire "suspicious" - but won't discuss any leads or suspects.

"We want justice.  We want to know what happened, we want to know why," Del Negro said.

Assistant State Fire Marshall Scott Pilgreen told WSFA 12 News investigators are trying to put the pieces together.  Gatlin had broken up a burglary at a neighbor's house a week before the fire.  And the night of the fire, police say that same neighbor's car was stolen and burned.

"Those circumstances in such a close time frame that into itself, you know the bells and whistles go off, Pilgreen said.  "You take a look at it, and you see if there's any connections there and that's what we're doing now."

In the meantime, Gatlin and his wife try to find something, anything to remind them of what they had.

"Do I think justice will be served absolutely, and I hope so, but as they told me, we're going to get those guys, we're going to put them away, but that's not bringing this stuff back, it's not bringing it back at all," Gatlin said.

The State Fire Marshall's office says once a determination about the cause and the person suspected of causing the fire is made, that information will be turned over to the Tallapoosa County District Attorney.  But again, they are not close to that point yet.

The Tallapoosa County Sheriff's Department and the State Fire Marshall's office are jointly investigating the case.  If you have any information, you're asked to call 256-825-4264 or a Secret Witness Line at 256-827-2035.

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