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Two Behind Bars In Oakland Mall Fire

Firefighters battled the blaze in the early morning hours on March 1

By David Howell

OAKLAND – Two Oxford men remain behind bars for their alleged role in burning an antique mall in Oakland valued at more than $2 million – an amount that includes contents from 51 vendors renting space at the mall.

    Yalobusha County Sheriff Lance Humphreys reported that Larry Loftis, 62, and his accomplice, James Flemons, 47, were charged late last Tuesday afternoon, March 15, following an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the state fire marshal’s office, Yalobusha Arson Investigator Frank Hyde and the sheriff’s department.

    Humphreys reported both men confessed to the crime and were charged with second degree arson, burglary of a commercial building and conspiracy to commit burglary. Justice Court Judge Steve Riley set bond at $110,000 for Loftis and Flemons. The high bond came after federal agents deemed Loftis was a flight risk, according to Humphreys.

    The March 1 fire gutted the L-shaped structure owned by Kirk Lindley, son of Larry Joe Lindley of Charleston, owner and president of Lindley Investments.

    Although much of the inventory was damaged or deemed a complete loss, Humphreys credited the quick response time from Oakland and Tillatoba firefighters for keeping the fire from completing gutting both sides of the building. Volunteers from Velma Fire Department also assisted in fighting the blaze.

    Citing the initial fire scene report, Humphreys said the building was valued at $450,000 and the contents could be worth as much as $2 million.

    “These victims are out anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars,” the sheriff stated.

    “We have been contacted by a number of vendors after the fire, many didn’t have insurance,” Humphreys added. Thankfully some of these vendors have small amounts of insurance.

    Humphreys said one option for the victims without insurance is to file a civil suit, either in justice court or circuit court, against Loftis.

    “There is a possibility they could recoup some of their losses,” the sheriff explained. A number of the vendors are from Water Valley and Yalobusha County.

    Humphreys said Loftis had rented 16 booths at the mall, paying $100 monthly for each space. He had insured his inventory for $150,000.

The Investigation

    The case broke last Tuesday, the same day the two men were arrested, after the ATF received a tip. The federal agents picked up Loftis in Batesville and brought him to the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department for questioning. Loftis admitted to his involvement in the fire and told authorities that he paid Flemons to help.

    Humphreys said gasoline and kerosene were both used as accelerates for the fire. Evidence found at the damaged building could also be used to link Loftis to the fire.

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