Details And Arrest Made in Fatal Valle Crucis/Valle Landing Fire

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11:35pm Thursday September 1, 2016 – Video update from WSOC-TV.


8:44pm August 31, 2016 –  On Wednesday night Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman sent out details in the on going investigation regarding the Valle Crucis/Valle Landing fire from August 12, 2016. The full statement is below, and WataugaOnline.com will update as more information becomes available:

On Friday, August 12, 2016, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call at 5:38 AM in reference to a structure fire located at Valle Landing, 3657 US Highway 194 South, Sugar Grove, North Carolina. Officers from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office, Boone Fire Department, Beaver Dam Fire Department, Cove Creek Fire Department, Foscoe Fire Department, Shawneehaw Fire Department, Meat Camp Fire Department and Zionville Fire Department responded to the scene of the fire. Upon arrival initial units discovered that the structure located at that address was engulfed in flames and had been totally destroyed by the fire.

Based on the evidence at the fire scene on August 12, 2016, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office requested that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Fire/Arson Unit and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Fire/Arson Unit respond to the scene for assistance with the cause and origin of the fire.

Since August, 12, 2016, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office, Boone Fire Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have continued to investigate the fire. Numerous interviews have been conducted by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office with witnesses, owners of the buildings and community members to gather information about the fire. Search warrants have been issued and served by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and evidence has been documented and gathered to corroborate the interviews and search warrant information. Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office and Boone Fire Department have been instrumental with the fire investigation as to determining cause, origin, developing a timeline, examining evidence as it related to the fire and the specifics of fire and how it spreads.

Based on the interviews conducted and the evidence gathered by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office the suspect was tracked to Cherokee, North Carolina. Due to the information gathered, Cherokee Police Department was contacted for assistance in looking for the suspect and his vehicle. Officers from the Cherokee Police Department located the suspect and advised Watauga County Sheriff’s Office of his location. After which a warrant for arrest was issued for the suspect for First Degree Arson and the suspect was entered as a wanted person into NCIC. Officers from the Cherokee Police Department secured the suspect on the First Degree Arson Warrant and officers from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office went to Cherokee, North Carolina where search warrants were obtained and issued by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Magistrate for the suspect’s motel room and vehicle. Officers of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee Police Department and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort Security served the search warrants on the suspect’s room which was located at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort and on the suspect’s vehicle which was found in the parking deck of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.

The suspect, Benjamin Draughon Williford, W/M, DOB: 4-4-86, with last known address of 150 Hillandale Road, Boone, North Carolina, 28607, was arrested and transported back to Watauga County where he was taken before a Watauga County Magistrate and given a $500,000.00 secured bond and given a court date of October 20, 2016. Benjamin Draughon Williford remains in the custody of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office pending his court date.

The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the Watauga County Fire Marshall’s Office, Boone Fire Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continue to investigate this incident. Watauga County Sheriff’s Office is continuing with ongoing collaboration and counsel with the District Attorney’s Office and additional criminal charges are expected in this incident.

Benjamin Williford

Benjamin Williford

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