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Arson suspected in Tabor City fire; Victim has ties to State Senator

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A Columbus County 17-year-old is recovering, after escaping from his burning house overnight. Fire investigators say it looks like arson.

The victim, Allen Strickland, has been in the news before. He’s a law client of State Senator RC Soles, and the two have a rocky relationship that’s required police intervention on more than one occasion.

Allen Strickland’s brand new home in Tabor City has been reduced to a burnt-out frame.
Strickland says the home was paid for by Senator Soles.

Strickland says he woke up around 4 o’clock Wednesday morning to a room full of smoke, and tried to escape through his bedroom window, but it exploded, burning his arm. He finally made it out through a back window upstairs.

“It was either stay in there or jump out, so I jumped out,” Strickland said. “When I got down I laid on the ground and thanked the Lord that I made it out of there”

About 45 minutes before the fire, Strickland says he heard someone knocking at his front door. But before he could see who it was, they were gone, and Allen went back to bed. He says there’s a lot of people who could have set his house on fire.

“This whole town is jealous of how I got that house, how I got my car, how I get money and all, and everybody just can’t stand it,” Strickland said.

When asked if thinks someone was trying to kill him, he replied, “Yeah, somebody is trying to hurt me. Whoever did it, they did it with the intention of me getting killed”

Allen says Senator RC Soles paid for his house, his car, and gives him a regular allowance as part of an arrangement they have if Allen agrees to finish school.

Allen doesn’t have a job, and his parents aren’t active in his life, so the money to buy these things obviously has to come from somewhere. But he says all the transactions between he and the senator have been in cash.

WWAY has been calling RC Soles for weeks to ask the Senator for details. Soles has yet to return our calls. On Tuesday, morning anchor Kevin Wuzzardo asked the Senator about the alleged gifts during an unrelated interview. This is what happened:

Kevin: “On another matter, a young man named Allen Strickland told us that you’ve given him tens of thousands of dollars to pay for his house and his car, as part of an arrangement that if he finishes school, you’ll buy him these things. Have you given him that money?:

Soles: “I cannot hear you.”

Kevin: (Louder) “A young man named Allen Strickland told us that you’ve given him tens of thousands of dollars to pay for his house and his car.”

Soles: “I cannot hear you, speak up.”

Kevin: (Louder) “A young man named Allen Strickland – “

Soles: “Speak up.”

Kevin: “Do you hear me, Senator?”

The phone then went dead.

The senator knew he was being recorded, and he had not had any problems hearing the previous nine minutes of an interview about the budget. When we tried to call him back after the line went dead, he was no longer available.

Back in Tabor City, authorities have called in the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the suspected arson, and say it may become an even bigger case since Strickland was inside during the fire.

“We can’t say that it was an attempt on his life, we don’t know yet,” Tabor City Police Captain Dean Foley told WWAY. “You’ve talked with him and you know his side of it. Right now we’re looking at it as just a possible arson. Until that time, we know if it was an attempted murder or not”

Police are planning on increased patrols for Allen Strickland’s protection, and if he cooperates, they’d like to keep up with him on a daily basis.

WWAY will continue to try to reach Senator Soles for clarification.

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Story summary

A Columbus County teen is recovering after escaping from his burning house overnight. Fire investigators say it looks like arson. The victim, Allen Strickland, is a law client of Sen. RC Soles, and says Soles gave him money to purchase the house.

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