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North Pinellas History: Fire was arson, not accident, officials say in 1933

Although fire Chief Luke Martin maintained yesterday that the fire at the residence of Dr. Robbins Nettles, in the Country Club section, probably resulted from spontaneous combustion of paints and cloths left in the pantry, it now appears that it was of incendiary origin.

Evidence of arson has been found inside the two-story frame structure. Insurance inspectors and firefighters have found that the fires had been kindled in a downstairs closet and in an upstairs closet. In another upstairs closet, a pile of kindling was found but had not been lighted.

A 5-gallon kerosene can that belonged in the garage was found in the kitchen, empty. Kindling found in the closets had been taken from the woodshed in the yard, where it had been cut into splinters by an ax left there.

The acts seem to have been carefully planned, as plaster on closet walls had been knocked off with a wrecking bar to expose the lath. Kindling had been piled against these places, saturated with kerosene, and lighted.

The trespassers gained entrance by cutting the outside screen and opening the door of the kitchen.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire is being conducted. There are two theories: Either the fire was set by a disgruntled person or it was the work of thieves who did not have time to loot the premises before firefighters arrived.

Some think the fire was started by a firebug. Nothing was missing from the home.

July 22, 1940

Robbers take money, janitor's trousers

CLEARWATER — John Hackett reported two men who robbed him added insult to injury by taking his trousers, apparently to prevent him from alerting people about the holdup.

Hackett, a janitor at the Bank of Clearwater, said he was held up by two men on Court Street near Prospect Avenue.

They took $29, he told officers.

After taking the money and the trousers, the men drove away in an automobile with a female passenger.

July 18, 1933

Sheriff, deputy return with prisoners

CLEARWATER — R.T. Varnadoe and Jack Miller have been returned to the County Jail by Sheriff E.G. Cunningham and Deputy Oliver Howell, who got back with the men last week.

Authorities of a prison camp on the East Coast believe that the two former prisoners of Pinellas County were plotting to free Marcel Cousineau from jail. Cousineau is serving a five-year sentence from Pinellas County for breaking and entering an A&P store during the Christmas holidays.

It is thought here that Miller and Varnadoe were connected with the robbery of the Dunedin Laundry in which a large safe and a quantity of clothing was taken.

Clothing found in their car has been identified as stolen at the plant of the Dunedin Dry Cleaning Co.

Police reported also that the car driven by the men showed bullet marks.

Deputies say that some of the marks were made by shots fired last week when the men were confronted at an abandoned stable at the Tampa Downs racetrack. They fled.

Officers said they had located a cache of stolen goods at the stable.

>>Looking back

Headlines through the years

A look back at the events, people and places that made North Pinellas the unique place that it is. The information is compiled from past editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

North Pinellas History: Fire was arson, not accident, officials say in 1933 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 4:03pm]
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