By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
City and state lawmen on Tuesday were investigating what they believed to be a murder and arson in a dwelling behind a house on Franklin Avenue.
Relatives of the deceased identified him as John Homer Poteete, a Lewisburg man who became a carpenter after he lost a leg several decades ago in an accident at Tyson Foods plant in Shelbyville.
Poteete's brother, Willie, and their cousin, Martha Poteete Riggins, hugged in the street as Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis, his detectives and officers investigated with the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Squad in and around the grey structure at 602 Franklin Ave., behind a wooden home facing an open grassy yard across the street.
"This does not appear to be an accident," Detective Sgt. David Henley said at the yellow police tape around the property. "We're investigating it as an arson-homicide."
Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles was also on the scene Tuesday morning.
The victim's body was taken to the state crime lab in Nashville, the sergeant said. Poteete's body was found lying "on a mattress."
Asked if an accelerant, or some sort of flammable liquid was involved in the fire, Henley replied, "That's under investigation. I'm waiting for the lab report, but I believe there will be an accelerant."
"That," Ann Cozart of North Church Street said, "is a horrible death. Ain't it?"
Cozart and Yvonne Tassin of Thomas Avenue walk through the neighborhood for exercise.
"We just seen him the other day, walking in the front yard," Tassin said. She and Poteete went to the same doctor and she recalled their conversation including his remark that he was looking for someone to cook for him.
Lewisburg Fire Chief Larry Williams said the fire call came in at 4 a.m. Three fire engines were dispatched to the scene, as were 19 Fire Department personnel, along with police, the Marshall County Emergency Medical Service and a Lewisburg Electric Service crew.
Williams released command of the scene to Lewisburg Police and the state bomb and arson detective division.
"This will be an all-day thing," Williams said. "This is a slow process, once you have a fatality involved. The fire was inside the structure and never breached the outside," so nearby buildings were not in jeopardy.