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Franklin man charged with starting 2 Macon County wildfires

Keith Eugene Mann, 49, was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire. (Photo credit: Vinelink)

A Franklin man faces a federal arson charge after he confessed to starting the Grape Cove and Jones Creek fires in Macon County.

Keith Eugene Mann, 49, was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire.

October 27, 2016, the Grape Cove wildfire was reported on Board Tree Road, which is within the Nantahala National Forest.

Court documents claimed that the fire was set intentionally. Further investigation found that five other fires had been set nearby the Grape Cove fire, but appeared to have gone out on their own.

Court documents also said law enforcement found several wooden-stem matches during the investigation into this fire.

Then on November 22, 2016, another wildfire was reported at the end of Jones Creek Road by someone who identified himself as Keith Mann.

According to the press release, on November 23, law enforcement returned to the second fire site. While there, law enforcement found a small cardboard box at the origin of the fire, with burned, wooden-stemmed matches next to the box.

Law enforcement then made contact with Mann, who admitted to setting the fires both on Board Tree Road and on Jones Creek Road.

The Grape Cove fire burned 15 acres and the Jones Creek fire burned about one acre.

Mann now faces up to 20 years in prison. His detention hearing has been set for Monday, December 5, 2016.

Read the full U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release:

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Keith Eugene Mann, 49, of Franklin, N.C. was arrested today on
federal arson charges, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District
of North Carolina. A federal criminal complaint filed this afternoon in U.S. District Court, charges
Mann with one count of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire.
U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Steven F. Ruppert,
Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigation, Southern
Region and Sheriff Robert L. Holland of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.
According to allegations in the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, on October 27,
2016, a wildfire was reported on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Road 388, commonly referred to as
Board Tree Road, which is in Macon Co., and within the Nantahala National Forest. The fire was
named “Grape Cove.” Court documents allege that the initial investigation of the fire determined
that it was set intentionally. Additional investigation revealed that five other fires had been set in
close proximity to the Grape Cove Fire, however they appeared to have gone out on their own. As
alleged in court documents, over the course of the investigation of these small fires, law
enforcement located several wooden stem matches. USFS firefighters conducted suppression of
the wildfire, which burned approximately fifteen acres.
According to allegations contained in filed court documents, on November 22, 2016, a
wildfire was reported at the end of U.S. Forest Service Road 763, commonly referred to as Jones
Creek Road, by someone who identified himself as “Keith Mann.” USFS firefighters responded
to the fire and took immediate suppression action. The fire was contained at approximately one
acre and was named “Jones Creek.” As alleged in the criminal complaint, law enforcement became
aware that a suspicious vehicle, identified as a mid-sized Chevrolet pickup, had been observed in
the area.
According to allegations in the complaint, on November 23, 2016, law enforcement
returned to the fire site. While there, law enforcement observed a small cardboard box located at
the origin of the fire, with numerous burned wooden stemmed matches next to the box. According
to allegations in the charging document, on the same day, law enforcement identified the caller
who placed the call to Macon County 911 to report the second fire as the defendant, Keith Mann.
Law enforcement made contact with Mann who admitted to setting the fires both on Board Tree
Road and on Jones Creek Road.
The defendant had his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis
Howell. Mann’s detention hearing has been set for Monday, December 5, 2016.
The charge of destroying real property of the United States by means of fire carries a
mandatory penalty of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendant is
presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The U.S. Forest Service is leading the investigation assisted by the Macon County Sheriff’s
Office. Assistant United States Attorney Richard Edwards is in charge of the prosecution.

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