published Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

$10,000 reward offered in Loftis Middle School fire

Federal and state investigators are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest for a Sept. 17 fire at Loftis Middle School.

The investigation found multiple fires were set throughout the Hixson-area school and cash and electronics were stolen, police said. Blood at the scene also suggests the suspect or suspects were seriously injured from a cut sustained during arson and burglary, they say.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, state Fire Marshal's Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the fire, which occurred in the early morning hours.

The fire left water damage from sprinklers in 10 to 12 classrooms and canceled classes for two days.

Officers found a slew of vandalism in the school, including broken windows, destroyed classrooms and blinds torn off windows. The main office was also ransacked.

Darryl Hill, ATF resident agent in charge, said the bureau is running evidence through DNA and fingerprint analysis at its Atlanta lab. It also appears a suspect left behind a pair of sunglasses and a Bob Marley hat, he said.

Hill said he couldn't comment on a suspected motive but the malicious intent of the crime did spark the offering of a reward.

"In this case it would be routine because it was a school building," Hill said. "For normal residential fires or even commercial buildings, we wouldn't ordinarily offer rewards."

ATF and the state Fire Marshal's Office are sponsoring the reward.

"The state Fire Marshal's Office is eager to see those responsible for this arson brought to justice," state Fire Marshal and Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said in a news release.

Anyone with information is asked to call ATF's 24-hour hotline at 1-888-ATF-FIRE.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at 423-757-6249 or khardy@timesfreepress.com.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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