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Boone man charged with arson in deadly Watauga County strip mall fire

Benjamin Williford
Benjamin Williford

A Boone man was arrested Wednesday, accused of setting a Watauga County fire that killed one person and injured five more, reports the Observer’s news partner, WBTV.

Benjamin Draughon Williford, 30, is charged with first degree arson.

One person was killed and five others injured in the seven-alarm fire, which broke out around 5:45 a.m. on August 12, at the Valle Landing strip mall. The mall is next to Valle Crucis Elementary School on Broadstone Road, just off of Highway 194.

Since the deadly blaze, investigators said they have been gathering evidence and conducting interviews, leading to them naming Williford as a suspect. Working with several agencies, the Watauga County Sheriff's Office determined that Williford was staying at Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Resort, where he was arrested.

Williford was jailed under a $500,000 bond. He is due in court on October 20.

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