Authorities said a massive fire that began 6:30 a.m. Saturday in an apartment building on Elm Street in Williamson is believed to have been intentionally set by three individuals to cover up a murder that occurred earlier that morning in a vacant third floor apartment.

Authorities said the "badly burned human remains" of an as-of-yet unidentified person were discovered during a search of the debris of the partially collapsed building hours after firefighters had finally brought the fire under control.

The discovery, authorities said, resulted after an apartment tenant came forward later Saturday and stated that he believed a man had been killed by three other men prior to the fire and that his body was still in the rubble.

Following a subsequent investigation, police later arrested James Allen Church, 32, of Williamson, and charged him first-degree murder.

Church was also charged with first-degree arson, robbery, assault in the commission of a felony and conspiracy. Police said warrants have been issued for the two other men believed to have been involved, Charles "Chuck" Jarvis and Terry Michael Jarvis.

Through the ensuing investigation, police said, it was determined that Church and the two other men had allegedly gone to the apartment intending to steal money and drugs that they believed were there," as well as to carry out "retaliation for an earlier incident involving two females who were staying at the residence."

Police said an apparent fight ensued between the victim and the three other men, at which time the victim was allegedly "beaten, struck and stabbed with a knife" by the three men just prior to them setting fire to the building.

Police said the badly-burned body was sent to the medical examiner's office in Charleston for identification, as well as to determine an exact cause of death. The Williamson Police Department, the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office and the Williamson Fire Department continue to investigate.

Recommended for you