Couple charged with Twin Lakes arson

Published 2:32 pm Friday, October 6, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — A couple has been charged with arson after their camper at Twin Lakes Campground in Chocowinity went up in flames early Tuesday morning.

John Joseph Collins, 63, and Lynn Sue Collins, 62, were arrested and charged with two counts each of first-degree arson, burning of personal property and felony cruelty to animals after an investigation, according to a press release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

The report of a camper fire was called in at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. Chocowinity Volunteer Fire Department, Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS, Blounts Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Chocowinity EMS, the sheriff’s office and the county fire marshal responded to the scene, where investigators determined the camper fire, and two other fires on the property, had been intentionally set.

“As far as what exactly was used, what substance (we don’t know), but there was a flammable liquid of some type. Right now, we suspect gasoline,” said Lt. Jim Vanlandingham, head of the sheriff’s office criminal investigation division.

Tuesday morning’s fire was not the first suspicious fire the Collinses have had, according to Vanlandingham. The couple has had multiple suspicious fires at their residences in the past — in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia — including four in the last 18 months. He said, to his knowledge, the Collinses have not been charged with arson for the previous fires.

“This is first one that we are aware of in our jurisdiction. … I can’t speak to the motive for all of them, but we think it’s for financial gain,” Vanlandingham said. “We’re still digging with the insurance department and one of their investigators.”

A neighbor was slightly injured attempting to get the Collinses out of the burning camper, though not enough to seek medical attention, Vanlandingham said. The couple’s cat died in the fire, which led to the animal cruelty charge, the press release stated.

Both suspects are being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center under $100,000 secured bonds.