Police suspect Loganville man started house fire after alleged home invasion plot

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

Gwinnett County fire investigators said they are treating this as arson. But, they said the homeowner claims it began as a home invasion.

LOGANVILLE, Ga. - The Loganville man who claimed robbers broke into his home and burned it to the ground is now accused of setting the fire himself.

Jonathan Smith, 37, went from victim to suspect.

Gwinnett County fire investigators said he created a wild story that ended with a fire that burned down his Loganville home on Peace Rose Place.

Channel 2 Action News was there in January when the investigation began.

"The story didn't add up," neighbor Columbus Malone told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh.

Smith told investigators he was the victim of a home invasion. He claimed two people broke in and set the fire. He claimed he had to fight them off firing his gun. Smith got out, but three cats and a dog did not.

Once frightened, neighbors told Kavanaugh they are now mad.

"Not only is it putting fear in the kids, it's scaring the parents because you don't want your kids out here thinking that something could happen to them," Michael Gordon said.

"You got elderly people in the neighborhood thinking that we really had a home invasion and somebody really burglarized his home and everything," Wanda Malone told Kavanaugh.

Investigators said new evidence points to Smith as the arsonist. They said he intentionally set the fire, knowing the pets were inside.

"To do that to the animals, I mean, you know? They're harmless," Gordon said.

And if that wasn't enough, there were alleged lies. Investigators said there may be one more. They said Smith also reported a burglary at the home two days before the fire.

His arrest warrant said Smith was the burglar, taking electronics from the home and pawning them.

"To torment our neighborhood like this, whatever happens to him, need to happen because we don't need this over here in this neighborhood," Malone said.

Fire investigators have not determined a motive. They said he didn't own the home, but that he lived in the home with his girlfriend and her children.

The family was not home at the time of the fire. Smith is expected in court next week.

Channel 2 Action News

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