Police Chief talks about arson investigation - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Tiptonville, TN

Police Chief talks about arson investigation

Police Chief talks about arson investigation
By: Erica Byfield

TIPTONVILLE, TN --Police Chief Norman Rhodes says it's hard enough to solve one arson case, let alone tie up loose ends on numerous fires in town.

Tiptonville is a small community counting fewer than 5,000 residents; where just about everyone knows everyone.

"I have mixed emotions these people are actually friends of mine," said Rhodes. 

He's watched their children grow up and recalls seeing James Blackburn in school, "I remember him back in grammar school he was a good kid."

Therefore for Rhodes called seeing him and three others in the fire department in striped jail uniforms, "a tough pill to sallow."

"I can't let crime go on; I had to try to solve the arson," said Rhodes. 

He also remembers the first time he thought something was wrong and went straight to the source for answers; then Fire Chief James Blackburn.

"You can tell the truth 100 times and it's always the same story and if somebody tells you a lie it's not the same every time, they tell it there's something different about it.   You know that," said Rhodes.   

Looking back he's learned some hard lessons.

One, it's extremely difficult to prove arson and two word gets around when you start asking questions in a small town. 

"We had to get them out of town we attempted that before they knew what were doing," Rhodes admitted. 

He knows the case isn't over and hopes the information investigators gathered is enough to put his childhood friends away. 

The all volunteer fire department is still functioning.  Rhodes said there are 15 men committed to seeing their department survive.

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