A former Scotland County lawman is sitting on the other side of the bars after being arrested on Wednesday.
Joe Thomas Peele, 41, of 102 Stacy Ave. in Hamlet was arrested for 26 counts of setting fires to grass and woodlands and 26 counts of malicious use of an incendiary device, all of which charges are felonies.
Peele was also charged with one count of breaking and entering and one count of setting fire to a dwelling, which occurred on May 13.
“Last year, beginning in July, we had several woods fires set around the Gibson area, and Mr. Peele was developed as a suspect,” said Investigator Jamie Laviner of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. “Starting in mid-April, we began having woods fires again in Richmond, Hoke, and Scotland counties. Mr. Peele was developed as a suspect again and subsequent evidence led to his arrest.”
Peele has been employed in the past as both an officer with the Laurinburg Police Department and a deputy for the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office. He served with the police department for three years before a brief stint with the sheriff in 2008. He worked for the sheriff’s office for fewer than six months, according to Sheriff Shep Jones.
“He worked at the police department, then I think he went to work for the railroad, then I hired him as a deputy,” said Jones. “This is definitely surprising, no question about it. I watched him as a police officer and I was impressed. When I had an opening here, he applied and I brought him on board. He stayed for a short time, and he just left abruptly.”
Peele’s motive for the fires has not yet been determined, according to Laviner, and he may yet face further charges. Peele has been placed in the Scotland County Detention Center under a $1,000,000 bond pending his first court appearance on Friday.