UPDATE (3/14/2019 3:45 p.m.)
Two more Harrison County men have been charged following the incident invovling a house in Salem that was set on fire after the theft of a deceased war hero’s belongings. The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating
Okey Jones was previously arrested and charged with first degree arson and burglary. Jesse Gray, 29, and Tony Wanstreet, 25, have been charged with burglary, fire marshals said. All three men are Salem residence and entered a residence on Gain Street on January 23 with the intent to steal.
Fire marshals said that Jones confessed to investigators that he returned to the residence. Several witnesses said Jones was nervous police would find fingerprints.
During the burglary of the home, all three men took part in stealing a wooden hope chest from the residence that contained to owner’s deceased brother’s Purple Heart, Silver Star and American Flag, according to fire marshals. Fire marshals said all three items have not been recovered.
Gray was arrested on March 8, fire marshals said.
Jones was arrested on March 12 and the arrest of Wanstreet is currently pending, according to fire marshals.
ORIGINAL (3/13/2019 6:35 p.m.)
A Harrison County man has been arrested on multiple charges after officers said he set fire to a house he burglarized in Salem.
Officers with the Salem Police Department said that a house fire occurred on Gain Street in Salem on January 23, 2019. The fire was investigated by the Assistant State Fire Marshal and was ruled to be intentionally set, according to court documents. Police said the fire was determined to have originated in the back right first floor sitting room.
Statements were taken from Okey Jones Jr., 45, of Salem, who also lived on Gain Street, and two other men that were identified as Tony Wanstreet and Jessee Gray. Police said that all three men admitted that they entered the home with the intent to steal items.
A witness said they observed the three men leaving the home about 10 – 15 minutes before the fire was discovered, according to court documents. Police said that statements from Wanstreet and Gray revealed that Jones became upset when a woman showed up in a red truck. The woman then told a witness that she was calling the police because she could tell someone had been inside the home.
The witness also stated that they saw Jones and Wanstreet carrying a chest from the back of the residence, according to court documents. Police said the chest was later found in a locked closet at Jones’s apartment. Jones also admitted to taking the chest from the home prior to the fire occurring, officers said.
Officers said that both Gray and Wanstreet stated that after leaving the residence they went to an apartment and did not leave until they were notified about the home being on fire about 15 minutes later. Jones later admitted in a recorded statement that he returned to the house alone after he had taken the chest, according to police. Jones also said that the house was not on fire at this time, but that he kept his head down and did not go inside.
Police said that when asked about the chest, Jones stated that Gray was helping him carry it from the dining room when the woman showed up and Gray took off. Jones said Wanstreet then jumped out of the back window because the chest was in the way of the door, according to court documents.
When police asked Jones where the Silver Star, Purple Heart and American flag were that were in the chest, officers said he responded that “they all” took them but would not specify who “they” were.
Officers said statements were taken from several witnesses who said Jones was at a pavilion located across the street while the house fire was still burning. Officers also said that Jones stated they didn’t have to worry now because “they wouldn’t find their finger prints and that he “saved all of them.”
During the investigation, police said they were told that Jones talked about being a volunteer firefighter in Wallace. Jones was also very concerned about a man in Wallace who got several years for arson. Officers said Jones was extremely concerned that if he got charged with arson that it would be his “third strike,” as he had two other felony charges.
Officers said Jones talked about setting the house on fire the day prior.
On March 5, officers said they were notified that Jones had entered the old city building located at 104 West Main Street in Salem. Upon arrival, officers said Jones was still on scene with the caller. Officers said the door knob to the building was visibly broken off in order for Jones to make entry into the building. Jones and several others had been advised prior to this incident that it was city property and they were trespassing, police said. Damages to the property totaled $13.98, according to court documents.
Jones has been charged with first degree arson, burglary and destruction of property, according to court documents. He is currently being held at North Central Regional Jail.