NEW ALBANY – The 22-year-old volunteer firefighter charged with arson and murder in the death of an 88-year-old woman in eastern Union County may have sparked numerous other fires.
William Cody Lambert was charged Saturday with murder and two counts of arson after two house fires were reported in the Alpine community. One of those fires killed Myrtle Mae Owen in her home.
Owen was a retired childcare facility owner, gardener and quilter. She was so beloved by the families whose children she had kept that some of them were to be pallbearers at her funeral today.
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.
Wilhite added that while the firefighter-arsonist phenomenon is not unknown to law enforcement, neither is it common.
“It has happened here before, but it’s probably been 25 or 30 years,” he said.
On Tuesday, Lee County authorities said they would charge him with three counts of first-degree arson and one of third-degree arson that span the county.
“It ranges from Saltillo and Guntown down to Shannon,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.” One of the fires Lambert is charged with destroyed St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Saltillo in April. The others involve residences and some hay.
Lambert served with the Guntown Volunteer Fire Department and possibly other units in Lee County. Earlier it was reported that he also served with a Union County department, but Steve Coker, Union County fire service coordinator, said as far he knew, Lambert had never served in Union County.
It was the Union County charges, however, that tipped off Lee County authorities.
“Where he lived in Lee County, across the road was a house that had burnt and we had already determined was arson,” Johnson said. “When they charged him in Union County, from that we were able to solve these cases and possibly some others.”