CENTERTON, Ark. (KFSM) — More details have been revealed about the arrest of a man suspected of lighting a Centerton mother’s home on fire Sunday (Jan. 19).
The Centerton Fire Department was called to the scene of a large house fire in the 900 block of Sienna Drive and crews determined the fire was caused by arson. Tessa Evans and her children were not in the home at the time of the fire, but police quickly identified the arson suspect as James Michael Evans, 38.
According to police, James Michael is the estranged husband of Tessa Evans.
James Evans was arrested with Priscilla Ennis, 38, more than 60 miles away shortly after the fire started. Police were able to track James’ cell phone, leading them to the pair in Greenwood. Ennis was driving the vehicle on a suspended license.
According to a police report released by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, the two were headed to Hot Springs where James’ father, James Leslie Evans, lives.
According to the report, James Michael and Tessa had moved to Centerton two and a half years ago. However, the couple split up about six months ago and James Leslie was in Centerton with Priscilla for a few days to help his son pack his belongings into a moving truck to move back to Hot Springs.
The report states that a neighbor provided surveillance video from the night of the fire, showing the father and son in an altercation in the front yard. According to the report, after the altercation, James Leslie walked toward the street and James Michael went into the garage. A short time later the reflection of a fire being started is visible in the footage.
“Smoke was coming from the garage seconds after Michael was seen going into the garage and exiting the front of the house,” the report states.
Priscilla is later seen in the footage driving off in a dark green pickup with James Michael in the passenger seat.
“Michael, Priscilla and James were on scene when the house was on fire and 911 was not notified by any of them,” the report states.
According to the police report, James Michael told officers many times that he did not know anything about the fire but later confessed to officers to burning the house down.
James Michael told police that his father was loading the truck and Priscilla was standing in the yard when he started the fire, the report states.
According to the report, James Michael said that he just walked up next to a shelf in the garage and lit something on fire, but he didn’t think it would burn.
During the interview, police asked James Michael if there was anything he wanted Tessa to know. “He said he would like her to know that he was sorry for burning the house down and that wasn’t his plan,” the report states.
Due to James Michael fidgeting a lot during the interview, he was asked by police when the last time he used meth was. He told police he had used meth a couple days before, according to the report.
James Michael is being held in the Benton County Jail on charges of Felony Arson and Third-Degree Assault on a family or household member.
Priscilla Ennis has since been released from the Sebastian County Jail on charges of Driving with a Suspended License.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help Tessa and her family.