UPDATE (8/4/20 1:26 p.m.)
COALTON, W.Va. — In a criminal complaint filed by the West Virginia Fire Marshall’s Office, the Coalton Fire Department responded to a fire at on Mabie-Cassidy Rd. for a home which “the front of the structure was heavily involved with fire” on Oct. 17, 2019.
The firefighters on scene said that the house’s resident was not home and that utilities had been disconnected prior to the fire for non-payment; the home’s owner, Gordon Channell, later arrived on the scene and told first-responders that he believed his ex-wife Jules had set the fire “because they were currently involved in a domestic dispute.”
Footage later obtained from a nearby house’s surveillance camera showed inconsistencies with Channell’s statement, as he “was recorded leaving the residence at approximately 1648 hours and was captured again driving past the residence a few minutes later slowing down to look at the structure,” according to the complaint, and “video footage captures the first sign of smoke at the residence approximately 10 minutes later.”
On Oct. 22, West Virginia Fire Marshals were contacted by the Coalton Fire Department due to concerns they had with the fire, and that one of the firefighters with the Coalton Fire Department had been made aware of a post about Channell’s house being on fire to which a reply was made which asked Channell “why he placed a torch in the couch and left in a hurry,” marshals said.
A search warrant was obtained to get Facebook information from Channell’s account which allowed marshals to find several messages between Channell and Jules through Messenger which “indicated that Jules Channell had knowledge of how the fire started” and that the two had created “a story to tell investigators to prevent Gordon Lee Channell from going to prison for arson,” according to the criminal complaint.
Also during the Messenger conversation, Channell told Jules that “the [f]ire [m]arshal watched [the cameras] and knows it wasn’t the stove,” and that both Channell and Jules “need to be spot on and need to tell the same story, or else [Channell] will go to prison for arson,” marshals said.
In conversations with other friends on Messenger, Channell said that Jules had “brought an ex-boyfriend to the house and as a result he had a little ‘Channell fit’,” according to the complaint, and a in message to another friend Channell “stated that he took a little fit and told that b**** she wasn’t going to take anything if he had anything to do with it,” and that ‘I’m f***ing stupid, lol but I proved my point. As f***ed up as it sounds its[sic] true, d*** I[sic] got to quit getting p***ed.”
On Dec. 2, 2019, marshals interviewed Jules who stated that she returned back to the house and that she lit a candle when she went inside, but when she left, “she didn’t remember putting the candle out and wasn’t sure if the dog could have knocked the candle over,” marshal’s said, when Jules left she got a ride with two males “in case a fight started” with Channell.
On Dec. 5, one of the men who gave Jules a ride from Channell’s residence told marshals that “she lied during her previous interview,” and that Jules “was pressured into saying a candle started the fire,” according to the criminal complaint, and that “Channell threatened to cut [Jules’s] throat during a physical fight.”
On Jan. 16, marshals interviewed Channell’s ex-wife Donna on if she had led him use her car, but she told investigators that “she has not had any recent contact with him because of the previous domestic abuse,” and that Channell “wasn’t driving her car because it was in the shop being repaired,” marshals said.
The next day, marshals learned that Donna had lied about having no contact with Channell from Jules, who had sent investigators a copy of a message wherein Donna had sent a message to Channell telling him that “investigators were looking for him,” which was later forwarded to Jules, according to the complaint.
On Jan. 21, marshals requested information from Facebook via warrant on Channell, Donna and Jules in order to verify the information Jules has provided, marshals said.
On Feb. 13, Facebook “complied with search warrants and released the data records” for Channell, Donna and Jules, which showed that “Channell needed to come up with an alibi for the fire, that he needed a place to hide out, that he was facing 2 counts of arson, that he may be in prison for 15 years,” according to the complaint.
In other messages, Channell stated “I f***ed up, I don’t think they can prove it,” and he lated messaged Jules “frantically asking what she told investigators,” at which point he sent the screen capture which Jules forwarded to investigators.
ORIGINAL (8/4/20 11:24 a.m.)
COALTON, W.Va. – A Coalton man has been charged with burning down his own home following a nine-month-long investigation by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office.
A release from the office stated that Gordon Channell has been arrested on a first-degree arson charge for the fire that occurred at his residence on October 17, 2019.
The release stated that the investigation began after the assistant chief at the Coalton Volunteer Fire Department received conflicting accounts on how the fire began at the home. The home, which was located on Mabie-Cassidy Road in Randolph County, did not have any working utilities and was a total loss.
Fire marshals said that due to the suspicions of the Coalton assistant chief, the State Fire Marshal’s Office was contacted to help investigate. Over the last nine months, Assistant State Fire Marshal Rick Sovastion conducted interviews and served search warrants until probable cause was obtained to arrest Channell for arson, according to the release.
The release stated that Channell was arrested on Saturday, August 1, and he is currently being held at the Tygart Valley Regional Jail on a $50,000 bond.
Channell was also arrested by the Beverly Police Department in an unrelated incident in June after he led officers on a pursuit in Randolph County while driving a motorcycle.