The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 11, 2013

Man charged with murder in fatal house fire

LEWISBURG — A Quinwood man faces a first degree felony murder charge for allegedly setting a fire that led to the death of Dennis McKay Williams.

Harvey Lee Davis Jr., 35, was arrested by the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department early Wednesday, only hours after Williams’ body was discovered in his fire-damaged home in Leslie.

According to Sheriff Jan Cahill, officers responded to the fire shortly after midnight, soon learning from firefighters on the scene “that there was a deceased man inside the residence.”

The dead man was identified as Dennis Williams, 56, who shared the home with his brother, Kenneth Williams.

“The information obtained from the firefighters led to further information that eventually led to the arrest,” Cahill explained.

According to a complaint filed by Sheriff’s Sgt. G.R. Workman, Davis and the Williams brothers had spent part of Tuesday night at the home the brothers shared “drinking beer and talking.”

Kenneth Williams told Sheriff’s Cpl. C.W. Bennett that an argument arose over Davis having pawned a chainsaw that belonged to Dennis Williams. Kenneth told Davis to leave the house, and Dennis went to bed.

A short time later, Kenneth Williams was outside the house when he saw what appeared to be fire on the structure’s rear porch. Although he ran back into the house and tried to extinguish the fire, he was unable to reach his brother, whom he heard screaming inside the home.

After confirming key portions of Kenneth Williams’ account of the evening with other witnesses, officers began to search for Davis. Sheriff’s Sgt. J.J. Martin found the man “hiding behind the guardrails on W.Va. 20 near the Bellburn Road intersection,” Workman wrote in the complaint.

Martin and Workman transported Davis to the Lewisburg Police Department for questioning.

While Davis initially denied even being at the Williams’ home at the time of the blaze, he eventually admitted igniting a couch that was on the house’s back porch, according to Workman’s complaint.

Davis was arraigned before Greenbrier County Magistrate Brenda J. Smith Wednesday afternoon. Smith found probable cause to bind the case over for the grand jury.

Cahill said he expects additional charges to be filed against Davis in connection with the arson, which is now under investigation by the state Fire Marshal’s office.

Also assisting in the sheriff’s department’s investigation was Deputy Travis Webber.

Davis is lodged in the Southern Regional Jail without bond.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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