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2 die in Stanly fire; man is charged

A 27-year-old Albemarle man has been charged with two counts of murder in connection with a fire that killed an elderly couple while they slept Friday morning in Stanly County, the sheriff’s office says.

The fire was reported about 6:30 a.m. at a mobile home on Smiley Road, in the Palestine community near Albemarle. Firefighters arrived to find the home engulfed in flames. When they put the blaze out, investigators discovered the two bodies.

The victims were identified as Earnest Daniel Hopkins, 85, and Thelma Jean Britt, 77. Deputies say Brandon Scott Coggins was charged with murder in the case, and they say he set the mobile home on fire.

Investigators have not said why they think Coggins set the fire. His first court date in Stanly County Superior Court is set for May 14.