Accused arsonist pleads not guilty

29-year-old Michael Lowery, Source: Columbus Police Department
29-year-old Michael Lowery, Source: Columbus Police Department

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It's been six months since the River Road Pharmacy went up in flames and Tuesday one of the suspects appeared in Recorder's Court, facing arson charges.

Fire officials revealed several "secret informants" came forward with information about the crime, but the defense says that just isn't enough.

Michael Lowery's attorney Michael Garner told News Leader Nine, "This is one of the most surprising cases I have ever seen."

In Recorder's Court this morning, Michael Lowery, who is accused of setting fire to the River Road Pharmacy in September, entered a "not guilty" plea to arson charges.

Garner said, "The fire department testified that there are no witnesses to this, they have no physical evidence of accelerants, there's no evidence of arson. All they have are witnesses who say at some point they heard Lowery or Burkett say they committed the crime."

Columbus Fire Chief Thomas Streeter doesn't wish to speak on camera because the investigation is on-going, but tells us a lot of that physical evidence was erased by the fire.

"When this first happened they ruled it was an accidental electrical fire and those claims were paid. It was only after these informants started coming in that the fire department changed their ruling," explained Garner.

But Chief Streeter has stated previously the arson could have been caused by someone tampering with wires inside the store.

Lowery's defense attorney plans to file paperwork to get him released from jail and demand the witnesses come forward, "I would assume these charges, as soon as we get to Superior Court, will disappear until the fire department can get some real evidence in this case."

Michael Lowery is still being held in the Muscogee County Jail, facing charges of arson, conspiracy of arson and criminal damage to property. The judge said he will not be granted bond because of his criminal history.

The other two suspects in the arson, Lillian and Bobby Jo Burkett, also plead not guilty.

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