Jefferson County Arson Suspect Arrested

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By Matthew Searcy

JEFFERSON COUNTY -- A Mt. Vernon man is facing aggravated arson charges after a weekend fire.  

The sheriff's department says Alec McLaughlin, of Mt. Vernon, set fire to a business last Friday, causing major damage and injuring a firefighter.  
 
"He ran right past me and got in his car," said arson victim Barbara Childers. 
 
Her business, Rend Lake Boat Storage,  suffered serious fire damage during the incident. Fire officials say McLaughlin lit one of her vehicles on fire, which caused the flames to spread.  
 
"The windshield blew out and i thought, it's going to blow up because of the gas in it," explained Childers.  
 
Jefferson County fire chief Robert Beal says the flames spread to a number of other vehicles.  
 
"The car that was set on fire was totally burnt up," said Beal. "There was heat and smoke damage on the boat that was next to it." 
 
Beal sustained first degree burns responding to the fire, an injury that raised McLaughlin's charges to aggravated arson. First responders say when the suspect tried to escape, he drunkenly crashed his car during the get away.  
 
"The subject that was fleeing the ended up crashing his car approximately 3 miles from the scene," said Beal.  
 
Childers estimates $100 thousand in damage to her storage facility. She has no idea why she was targeted.  
 
"I don't know if it's just random or he had something against us," said Childers. "I've not made anybody mad so I don't know." 
Marion Regional
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