Arson charge filed against convicted arsonist

Matt Swearengin Managing Editor mswearengin@civitasmedia.com

October 2, 2013

A man sent to prison twice for arson is behind bars again after authorities arrested him for suspicion of setting another fire in Bennington.

Lonnie Cecil Williams, 59, Bennington, was charged Tuesday with second-degree arson. He is accused of setting fire to an unoccupied structure at 302 Collins Ave. owned by James E. Williams.

Bennington Police Chief Jimmy Hammond went to the scene at approximately 1:08 that morning after receiving a call about a structure fire. The house was fully engulfed when the Bennington Fire Department and Hammond arrived on the scene, according to an affidavit.

A witness said he heard three loud sounds and when he went outside, the back of the house next door was on fire and he saw a man running from the back of the house into some brush, an affidavit states.

Hammond arrested Williams at the scene. Williams’ brother owned the house according to the affidavit, and about 15 minutes before the fire, witnesses said they saw Lonnie Williams walking on Collins Street and saying his brother was a “no good liar and he was going to burn his (behind) out.”

An initial court appearance was held for Williams Tuesday and bond was set at $75,000.

According to court records, Williams has two prior convictions for arson from 1988 and again in 1998. The second incident was for a fire in downtown Bokchito. He was released from prison in 2006.

There have been other arson fires at vacant residences in Bennington recently, although Williams has not been charged with setting those fires.