TUPELO – Alleged arsonist-murderer William Cody Lambert of Guntown helped put out the fires he’s accused of starting, authorities said Wednesday.
“It was almost if the suspect wanted to be the hero,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “He was going in and saving people and knocking on neighbor’s doors and getting them out of the house.”
Five additional charges in connection with a string of alleged arsons were added to Lambert’s record Wednesday.
Lambert, a 22-year-old volunteer firefighter for both Cedar Hill and Guntown Volunteer Fire Departments, was charged Saturday with murder and two counts of arson after two house fires were reported in the Alpine community in eastern Union County.
An 88-year-old woman, Myrtle Mae Owen, was killed in one of the fires.
Wednesday, a bond of $5 million was set for Lambert in Lee County Justice Court on five counts of arson.
At Lambert’s initial court appearance on Tuesday in Union County, bond was set at $100,000 for each of the arson charges. Bond was denied for the murder charge, said Union County Sheriff Tommy Wilhite.
Johnson said Lambert is accused of setting fires to three occupied homes, St. Thomas Catholic Church in Saltillo, farm equipment and hay over the past few months.
“This is a very serious crime because the homes were occupied,” said Johnson. “People had to rush out of their homes or be burned to death. I have no idea why the suspect would do this to these people because there is no evidence that he had any prior relationship with them.”
Johnson said Lambert made many of the 911 calls about the fires and even went into the homes and got many of the victims out. Lambert, he said, was often the first person on the scene.
Lambert’s Facebook page identifies him as a 2006 graduate of Saltillo High School with Christian views and an interest in dirt track racing.
Mississippi Deputy Fire Marshal Jonathan Owens said it’s unusual, but not unheard of, to have volunteer firefighter start fires for the glory of putting them out.
“This gives a bad look on volunteer firemen,” said Owens. “Most of these guys are hard-working volunteers who really love to help people and fight fires, but sometimes you get a person like this. These guys get up at 2 a.m. to put out a fire for no pay and then have to get up and go to their real jobs in the morning. I just hate to see them get a bad rap behind something like this.”
Owens said volunteer firemen do have to complete a two-day training course at the State Fire Academy, but no psychological evaluations are done.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal