A representative with the Georgia Arson Control association presented a Morgan County citizen with a $5,000 check Wednesday, Aug. 7, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in a 2020 arson that destroyed five Morgan County cabins.
The presentation, attended by a host of local law enforcement officials including Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley, Madison Police Department Assistant Chief Colin Campbell and Morgan County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Stone, commended a woman who came forward to help lead investigators to Maynard Moses Ray, 31, and co-conspirator Carl Martin Johnson, 29.
According to Lt. Joseph Pritchett, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division, the anonymous tip led investigators to a vehicle at Country Boy’s RV Park that provided probable cause to execute a search warrant at a lot at Country Boy’s.
“During the investigation,” Pritchett said at the ceremony, “investigators located items of evidence pertaining to the arson. Deputies also rescued two women and three children. One of the children,” he said, “a 3-year-old, per doctor’s statements, had only days to live based on his condition.”
At the time of the arrest, both Ray and Martin claimed to be “sovereign citizens” and did not cooperate with authorities. On Thursday, June 30 a Morgan County jury deliberated for less than two hours before finding Ray guilty of burglary in the first degree, arson in the first degree and cruelty in the first and second degree. He was sentenced to 20 years with 15 years to serve.
Johnson pled guilty in December 2021 to one count burglary in the first degree and one count obstruction of an officer. He was initially sentenced to 15 years with one year to serve and the remainder to be served on probation. However, Johnson, court documents state, failed a drug test and was on April 25, 2022, ordered to serve another 90 days at the Morgan County Detention Center. That sentence was suspended after Johnson was accepted into the Illinois Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System.
At Wednesday’s event, the woman who contacted authorities and wished to remain anonymous, said she observed the vehicle at the RV park and watched people exit the vehicle and enter the woods. The activity, she told authorities, seemed suspicious. She called police.
Pritchett commended the woman, as did Kenneth Leroy, Georgia Arson Control. “We are here today to recognize an individual for their courage to speak up and report suspicious activity that solved an arson and saved a life,” Pritchett said.
While investigators were at the Bethany Road scene of the arson, Pritchett said investigators received the suspicious vehicle call. “The investigation would not have had as quick a success without the caller’s information,” he said. “The caller not only helped solve the arson but also led to the discovery and rescue of a child with just days to live.”
“In this situation a whole community came together... and saved some childrens’ lives and got an arsonist out,” LeCroy said.
The woman accepted the $5,000 check and a round of applause from law enforcement officials. The money, according to LeCroy, comes from an aggregate fund that statewide insurance companies contribute to in order to fight arson.
“I am reminded of the quote: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” Pritchett said. “Citizens that speak up make our county a safer place.”