Two Monroe men were arrested on suspicion of insurance fraud and criminal conspiracy following an investigation by the Ouachita Parish Fire Department into a May 11 house fire in Monroe.
The suspects were identified as Marceis Devontae Davis, 25, of Monroe, and Trent Lenoise Williams, 31, of Monroe.
Ouachita Parish Fire investigators were called to investigate the origin and cause of a house fire at 115 Longwood Drive in Monroe. The fire extended from the master bedroom to the attic area above the bedroom inside a brick home of 1,320-square feet.
“The fire was determined to have been intentionally set in the attic area above the master bedroom,” according to the Oct. 5 warrant for the arrest of Davis and Williams, obtained from Fourth Judicial District Court records.
According to investigators' findings, the alleged conspiracy involved Davis buying the house and insuring it while his so-called tenant furnished the house a week before the fire, to make the house appear lived-in though the structure's conditions indicated it had not been lived in for some time.
An inspection of the house by responding firefighters indicated the house had not been lived in recently. Firefighters said there was no sign of forced entry at the house, and all the breakers were in the “off” position. None of the appliances were plugged into electrical outlets; graffiti was written on the walls; and the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets contained leaves, wasps nests and a bird nest, according to the warrant. The outlet behind the cathode ray tube television could not support a plug, since it was just a hole with severed wires.
Water company records and electric company records indicate no water was used at the home during the times when Williams or Butler claimed to live there.
On May 22, investigators interviewed Davis, who owned the home. According to Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor records, Davis bought the home from Glynn Otis Ludley on Jan. 13 for $6,500 and later insured the home through State Farm Insurance Co. Davis claimed he rented the home to Williams for $700 a month beginning on Feb. 1. He said Williams paid rent by placing cash in an envelope and placing the envelope in a mailbox, most of the time.
“The overall condition of the house and statements of witnesses indicate Trent Williams did not actually rent the home for $700.00 per month as he and Davis stated,” stated the warrant. “Rather, the facts show this was a conspiracy by Davis and Williams with the intent being to collect monies from insurance claims.”
On May 16, fire investigators and a State Farm investigator interviewed Williams, who said all the appliances and furniture in the house belonged to him. Williams claimed there were three flat screen televisions in the home, including a 42” screen, though investigators were only able to find one television, which was a cathode ray tube television. Investigators could not detect the remains of any flat screen televisions either.
Residents who lived next to 115 Longwood Drive told investigators they had “not seen anyone living in the house in several years.” According to one of the neighbors, several vehicles transported furniture to the house about one week prior to the fire.
“Williams stated he was in Oklahoma when the fire occurred and that his nephew, Tremaine Butler, who stayed with him at the residence on occasion, called him, woke him up, and told him about the fire,” stated the warrant. “He said Butler told him the whole house was engulfed in flames and that he had already called the fire department.”
Butler, who was Williams' nephew, said all doors were locked and secure when he left the house the night of the fire, though the front door was unlocked and the rear sliding glass door was partially open. Butler told investigators he saw the house on fire, panicked and ran home and told his great grandmother. He said his great grandmother called Williams about the fire.
“Phone records show Trent Williams did not receive a call from Tremaine Butler or (his great grandmother) the night of the fire,” stated the warrant. “(Butler's great grandmother) was interviewed and she said Tremaine did not come home and tell her about the fire and she did not make a call to Trent Williams.”