GREENFIELD — Moments after Meleiah Kennedy got the phone call that her Greenfield house was on fire, she began to cry and told investigators she was certain her boyfriend was responsible for the blaze, police said.
Nearly two weeks after the Thanksgiving Day fire destroyed Kennedy’s home in the 300 block of North Swope Street, police and fire officials concluded Kennedy was right. Her boyfriend was arrested Wednesday on a charge of arson.
Dalton Rowe, 24, faces a Level 4 felony, which carries a penalty of two to 12 years. He was booked into the Hancock County Jail on Wednesday morning. Records show he is being held there without bond pending a hearing in Hancock County Superior Court 1. The hearing had not been scheduled at press time.
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Rowe, whom Kennedy told police she was breaking up with, had been living with a friend in Greenfield in the days leading up the fire. He told that friend what he had done after setting the blaze, according to court records.
On Thanksgiving morning, the friend said, Rowe visited the Swope Street home and returned saying he’d “just burnt his house down,” court records state. A few minutes later, sirens could be heard and smoke could be seen coming from the direction of the Swope Street home, the friend told police, according to court records.
No one was injured, but the fire left Kennedy and her infant son without a place to live and many of their belongings were destroyed.
Officers checked the city’s security camera footage around the time of the fire and spotted a silver sedan — believed to be Rowe’s 2000 Mercury Cougar — driving to and from the Swope Street house, court records state. The car can be seen driving away from Swope Street at 12:04 p.m., four minutes before the first 911 call came about the burning house, records state.
Rowe was in the midst of a breakup with the mother of his 4-month-old son, court records state. The couple had been living in the Swope Street home together for at least two years but were in the process of separating, Kennedy told police.
Kennedy recently had asked Rowe to move out of the home, and she had plans to change the locks so he could not get back inside, court records state.
Rowe previously made remarks about setting the house on fire, Kennedy told police.
Kennedy told police she spoke to Rowe about 20 minutes before she got word the house was destroyed. Rowe had told Kennedy he was going to the Swope Street home to pick up some belongings, court records state.
Kennedy told police Rowe later admitted to setting the fire, court records state.
Rowe said he had poured lighter butane fluid on the bedroom floor and ignited it, she told police.
Kennedy told the Daily Reporter she did not wish to comment on Rowe’s arrest “given the circumstances.”
Investigators said there is no indication Kennedy was involved with the fire.
In an interview after the fire, Kennedy said she has been staying with her mother and planned to stay there until she is able to find a new home.
The community rallied behind Kennedy and the couple’s young son in the day following the blaze. An online fundraiser account shows $1,350 has been collected on their behalf.
Greenfield Fire Marshal Brian Lott said there is no way to know for certain how the fire was set. He said he believes the blaze started on the front porch and spread into the bedroom. But the timing of the blaze was the first indication the fire was arson, he said.
It was a warm afternoon on Thanksgiving Day; there were cars lining the streets, and people coming to and from houses as they prepared for their holiday meals, Lott said. For a fire to get so big so quickly, without anyone noticing, was suspicious, he said.
During its investigation, the fire department was able to rule out all accidental causes of the fire, Lott said. The home did not have electrical issues, and officers did not find anything inside that might have caught fire.