Kingsport teen charged in alleged arson, vandalism spree

Rain Smith • May 6, 2013 at 3:10 PM

A bizarre and apparently unprovoked sequence of vandalism and arson has prompted the arrest of a Kingsport teen, who police say damaged property at several residences before breaking into a woman's home and resisting officers.None of the victims reportedly know the suspect, James H. Winston, 19, of Southwood Drive. Sullivan County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart says Winston appeared to be under the influence during the incidents — which included setting fire to a trash can at one home, a carport at another.Shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday deputies responded to a residence near the intersection of Rock Spring Road on Moreland Drive. An affidavit says a caregiver for the elderly resident walked into the kitchen to find a fire burning outside the door at the carport. When the caregiver exited the home with a broom to extinguish the flames, an unknown male reportedly appeared in the driveway to, "help her put out the fire." When the woman said she had called the fire department the man reportedly took off running towards a neighboring home. Responding patrol officers briefly spotted the fleeing suspect, later identified as Winston. In an attempt to locate him they found a second fire across the street on Worthington Drive, where a trash can sitting near the residence was engulfed in flames. It was quickly extinguished by deputies. While searching the area police discovered a flower pot had been thrown onto the windshield of a vehicle parked outside another Worthington Street home. A K9 reportedly tracked the suspect to the same location, where officers contacted the resident. While speaking with the woman she allegedly noticed a light on inside a room in the home, along with the odor of gasoline. When she opened the door she screamed, according to court records, and alerted police that the unknown man on the floor had no permission to be inside.The suspect, Winston, reportedly became combative with officers, but was taken into custody after a brief struggle inside the room. A search reportedly located a lighter in his pocket, while the resident's gas can was found to be missing. Winston is believed to have entered the home by using a propane tank to break out a basement window. Police arrested Winston and charged him with aggravated arson, setting fire to personal property or land, aggravated burglary, vandalism and resisting arrest. He's suspected of being under the influence during the incidents, according to Earhart, and told investigators that he has no recollection of the events. On Monday morning he remained held in the Sullivan County jail in Blountville.

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