Alleged arsonist nabbed; warrant out for second suspect
By Ken Childers
Police have apprehended one suspect and, as of press time Tuesday, were on the hunt for another man in connection with an arson that damaged a home on South Third Street in September.
On Saturday, officers from multiple agencies executed a warrant resulting in the arrest of Mark Kevin Dodson, 50, of Okemah. Dodson is facing a number of felony charges, including conspiracy, arson and endangering human life during arson.
On Monday, a warrant was issued for the arrest of 21-year-old Seth Henry Thomas, also of Okemah, for his alleged role in the arson. According to court documents, Thomas faces charges of conspiracy, second degree arson and endangering human life during arson, all felonies.
According to an affidavit, Dodson has previous felony convictions for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, stolen property, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, carrying a firearm and taking of a credit card. Thomas is currently on probation through the Okfuskee County District Attorney’s Office for larceny from a retailer and resisting arrest.
On Sunday, Sept. 15 at around 3 a.m., the Okemah Police Department and Okemah Fire Department were dispatched to a fire at the former home of the late Dr. Noel Miller and Dr. Bonnie Miller, located at 625 South Third Street.
The fire damaged some of the interior of the home and was extinguished. At 12:43 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 16, police and fire crews were once again dispatched to the residence. The home’s interior was damaged even further by the second fire.
Okemah Police Chief Ed Smith requested the assistance of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), and a subsequent investigation by the State Fire Marshall’s Office determined both fires were the result of arson.
According to an affidavit, law enforcement officers reviewed surveillance video footage taken by cameras at a nearby residence. The video showed that on Sept. 16 at 12:28 a.m., two men carrying containers of liquid walked up to the east side of a home located at 610 South Third. It appeared the men were either going to burglarize or set fire to the home until they noticed the surveillance cameras.
The men walked west out of the view of the camera toward the Miller residence, according to the affidavit. About four minutes later, a flash of light appeared which was believed to be the fire starting at the Miller home. About twelve seconds later the two men began running east, away from the fire and through the backyard of 610 South 3rd Street, without the containers.
Agent Kurt Titsworth of the OSBI and Okemah Police Chief Ed Smith identified the men in the video footage as Thomas and Dodson.
Titsworth interviewed a witness who told him that during the evening of Sept. 13 or Sept. 14, Thomas left a residence with Dodson and a girl named Destiny in Dodson’s green pickup. The witness did not know Destiny’s last name. The witness next saw Thomas on Monday, Sept. 16 between 9:30 and 10 a.m. at a residence in Okemah.
On Sept. 17, Titsworth received a phone call from Thomas from a number which was believed to be Thomas’ cell phone number. Titsworth told Thomas he needed to visit with him about some things that had occurred over the weekend in Okemah. According to the affidavit, Thomas said he had been in Schulter, Oklahoma since Sept. 14, and when Titsworth tried to discuss a meeting, Thomas hung up the phone.
On Sept. 18, Titsworth obtained a Search Warrant for AT&T Mobility for phone records for Thomas’ cell phone number. A review of the records showed Thomas’ phone number had made and received calls and text messages between Sept. 14. and Sept. 17., hitting cellular towers within Okemah and Okfuskee County. His number had also pinged a cell tower 26 minutes prior to the Miller fire, according to the affidavit.
Multiple agencies, including the OSBI, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Department, the Okemah Police Department, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Department, the District 24 Drug and Violence Task Force and the state Fire Marshall’s Office, were involved in the investigation.
“This is a great example of teamwork,” said Smith. “It’s a great thing when agencies come together and work with each other to help solve crimes.”