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Arrest warrant issued for suspect in Butler fire
Authorities seek building owner's brother for arson

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — The man wanted in connection with setting the Butler building fire is the brother of one of the owners and was arrested for a golf course fire in the 1990s.

According to the arrest warrant, a grand jury indicted Sam-uel Keith Chambers, 49, of 3991 Lauderdale County 26, Rogers-ville, on a charge of second-degree arson. Limestone County authorities were searching for him Tuesday evening.

Chambers is the brother of Laurie Cannon, who along with her husband, Dr. Joe Cannon, owned the building.

Authorities said the Rogers-ville address likely is not valid. Chambers also is wanted on a warrant for probation violation for driving under the influence.

The Butler building fire erupted Aug. 27. The site is on West Market Street next to Athens-Limestone Hospital.

Chambers confessed a week and one day later, according to authorities, but state fire officials did not arrest him and opted to send the case to a grand jury.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said he would not comment on what investigators say to any suspect or what a suspect says to investigators.

Limestone District Attorney Kristi Valls said Chambers told investigators in his confession that he was upset that his father had died that week and that he was angry at his girlfriend.

"When he drove by the building, he thought, 'I'm going to burn it,' " she said.

Sheriff Mike Blakely said he arrested Chambers in the early 1990s for the burglary and arson of Crestwood Golf Course on Nick Davis Road. The sheriff did not know whether Chambers received a plea bargain in that case.

According to Circuit Court records, Chambers is currently paying restitution on at least three convictions: a burglary in 1991, breaking and entering a vehicle in 1996 and burglary in 2000.

Circuit Court Clerk Charles Page said the 1991 burglary appears to have been a plea bargain in connection with the golf course clubhouse fire.

Athens police and fire, the state fire marshal's office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the Butler fire.

The building was a two-story, 26,000-square-foot structure. During the fire, flames soared 30 to 40 feet. Some witnesses said they heard an explosion-type sound when the fire erupted.

Authorities did find grenades in the rubble during the investigation but ruled them unrelated to the fire when they discovered the two grenades were old and had been stored on site. Authorities have not said how Chambers allegedly started the blaze.

The Cannons used the building to store furniture and appliances. They bought the building in 2001 or 2002 from the Butler family.

Artie Butler previously told The Daily that his grandfather and father started a business at that site.

"It was an old barn and they had auctions there," Butler said.

According to tax records, the business dated to at least 1950.

The Butler family kept adding to the building and turned it into a furniture store. Butler said it operated there until 1999, when Butler's Home Furnishings moved to U.S. 72.

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