Renter allegedly torches residence, threatens girlfriend, property owner

Published 3:52 pm Thursday, April 21, 2022

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An irate renter allegedly went on the warpath during an episode that resulted in the arson destruction of a rental property and threats volleyed at his girlfriend and the homeowner.

John Collins III, 32, of New Tazewell was apprehended by New Tazewell Police Chief Ben Evans and Officer Tyler Williams during the wind down of the man’s alleged rampage.

First to arrive on scene, the Chief observed broken windows and witnessed smoke and flames escaping from the burning structure. Collins was reportedly the only one in the home. Not long after arrival, Evans witnessed an explosion, according to arrest citations.

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Collins later admitted to Officer Williams that he had indeed set the fire and that he wanted to kill his girlfriend and the property owner. The two had left prior to the alleged arson.

During an officer interview, Collins’ girlfriend said he had busted out one of her car windows and had torn a mirror from the vehicle as she attempted to leave the property, adding that Collins was “out of his mind.”

Collins later told Jail Administrator Tim Shrout that he meant to set the fire and that he hoped the house caved in.

At some point in the questioning, Collins alerted Officer Williams that there would be another explosion, telling him that the firefighters needed to leave the structure.

The fire, which was set mid-afternoon on April 19, rekindled overnight, eventually destroying the residence located on Old Hwy. 33.

At the time of the arrest, Collins was found in possession of a small firearm.

He is charged with one count each of aggravated arson, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, domestic vandalism over $1,000 and vandalism over $1,000.

Collins appeared before the Claiborne Sessions Court judge on April 21, which netted a rescheduling of his hearing to May 5.

He is currently held in the Claiborne County Jail on a $1 million secured bond.