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Vanceboro man convicted of arson, sent to prison for years

Timothy Lail (Photo from the office of District Attorney Scott Thomas)

A Vanceboro man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison as a habitual felon on Tuesday.

38-year-old Timothy Eric Lail entered the guilty plea just before being called to trial. His charges arise from a 2018 arson case.

On July 20, 2018, the Vanceboro Volunteer Fire Department responded to a home fire on Craven Farms Road.

Investigators with the Craven County Fire Marshall's Office said they learned that prior to the fire engulfing the structure, neighbors spotted a man on a red four-wheeler leaving the location.

Based on this information and an initial review of the physical evidence, the Craven County Sheriff's Office began an arson investigation. The Sheriff's Office received a tip identifying Timothy Lail as a possible suspect.

Investigators located Lail riding a red four-wheeler in the Vanceboro area and took in him into custody while seizing his cellphone.

Lail was read his rights and he admitted to starting the fire inside the residence by using garbage and other debris. Furthermore, a search of Lail's phone revealed pictures of the fire being started. Lail stated he was drunk at the time and was mad at the property owner for evicting another former resident.

Fortunately, the residence was not occupied at the time of the fire. Lail has an extensive criminal history that includes at least three prior felony convictions, giving him the status of habitual felon for sentencing purposes.

He pleaded guilty to second degree arson and was sentenced 77 to 105 months in prison (approximately 6 to 8 3/4 years). Lail was also ordered to pay more than $48,000 in restitution to the property owner.

Investigators identified Lail as a suspect less than 24 hours after the fire was set, according to Assistant District Attorney Matt Wareham.

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