HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Three volunteer firefighters in Hancock County are charged with arson. Hancock County Sheriff's officials say 27-year-old Marie Gill, of Gulfport, is facing two counts of arson and one count each of conspiracy to commit arson and tampering with evidence.
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Korri-Don Jones, of Pearlington, and 39-year-old Leslie Cheramie, of Bay St. Louis, are facing charges of conspiracy to commit arson and accessory after the fact.
Authorities say they have evidence linking the accused to at least two arson fires but believe they could be responsible for many more.
Authorities say a marsh fire ignited a week ago in Logtown in the Pearlington community was the work of the trio. Police say they crossed a bridge on a Heritage Trail and used a torch to burn the marsh grass. Officials believe the damp marsh prevented the fire from spreading.
"The evidence clearly showed the three individuals were conspiring to commit arson," said Anthony Gambino, Investigator with the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators say the firefighters are also responsible for a marsh fire near the Clermont Harbor Pier in early December. Investigators also believe they may be behind a string of abandon house fires.
"In the time I've been fire marshal, I've never had to arrest any firefighters or suspect any firemen, so it certainly really breaks your heart," said Hancock County Fire Marshal Brian Adam.
Marie Gill is a former firefighter with the Clermont Harbor Volunteer Fire Department who recently joined the Kiln Volunteer Fire Department. She was into a 90 day probation period with that department when she was arrested.
Korri-Don Jones is a longtime firefighter with the West Hancock Volunteer Fire Department. In fact, his father, Kim Jones, is fire chief.
Leslie Cheramie was also a volunteer for West Hancock. Officials say what the trio did after starting the fire in Logtown might surprise you.
"The three continued to ride around looking for places to start fires and also attempted to locate abandoned houses," explained Gambino.
Determining a motivation for the crimes baffles even veteran firefighters.
"They're there to protect the public, not to put the public in harm's way," said
"It could be anything from someone being board or mental illness. We don't know," Gambino said.
Authorities say Gill was released after posting a $10,000 bond.
Jones and Cheramie have yet to post bond and remain behind bars. If convicted of arson, a person could receive up to two years in jail for each count.
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