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Four Statesboro residents rewarded for providing information about an arson
Arson photo
Four residents of Statesboro were awarded $2,500 each for providing information that led to the arrest of conviction of a man for arsons committed at College Walk Apartments in 2005.
    Laquan Lucas, Aaron Alexander and two others provided information to local authorities as well as the statewide arson tip line that resulted in Philip Rice being sentenced to five years in prison.
    Lucas said he knew Rice and shortly after the arsons were committed, Rice came to stay with him at his apartment. During that time, he bragged about setting the fires.
    "The place he burned down was actually my best friend's house," Lucas said. "He came to my house telling us about he burned that one and how he did this and did that."
    Lucas said he then asked him if he'd set the fires and Rice said yes, and he'd set other fires as well.
    "He was just laughing about it and making a joke about it, so I told him he had to go and the next day I called," he said.
    Alexander, meanwhile, said he worked at College Walk Apartments and saw Rice sitting in his car smoking a cigar while one of the fires burned.
    He said he noticed several little things about Rice that led him to call the local authorities.
    John Oxendine, insurance and safety fire commissioner, was on hand for the presentation and said often in the case of arson, investigators rely on tips from the public to help solve the case.
    "Arson is a major problem in Georgia, costing millions upon millions of dollars and costing lives," Oxendine said. "It's a very serious crime and so much evidence is destroyed because there's a fire."
    Fortunately, he said, many arsonists  tend to talk about their crimes, which, with the public's help, allows investigators to make arrests in cases.
    The reward money comes from the Georgia Arson Control Reward Program, an account created by private insurance companies that contribute to encourage people to come forward with information.
    "This reward is available for any fire in Georgia. It does not have to be formally offered by my office. If there's an arson fire in Georgia, this reward is available automatically," he said.
    Since it's formation in 1979, the program has given out more than $1.2 million in reward money.
    For more information, visit
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