04/06/08 — Teen, 18, charged in arson at Aycock

View Archive

Teen, 18, charged in arson at Aycock

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 6, 2008 3:35 AM

FREMONT -- A Fremont 18-year-old helped start the late January fire that caused $200,000 in damages to a state landmark, authorities say.

Children take field trips to the Charles B. Aycock birthplace near Fremont to view farm life, original time period artifacts and livestock once raised there by the Aycock family.

But tours of the main building, Aycock's birthplace, have been unavailable since someone set fire to the structure Jan. 24.

Now, authorities say they have at least one person responsible for the fire that disrupted tours of the site's main attraction.

Sheriff's Office detectives caught up with Durwood Eugene Smith III, 18, Wooten Street, largely because of citizen tips, a captain said.

Smith isn't the only suspect authorities say they are seeking in the arson -- at least one more arrest is expected, authorities said.

Capt. Tom Effler praised citizens who called with offers of help.

"We had received some calls from the public, and we just followed up with a bunch of interviews," Effler said. "Finally, we got a lucky break and were able to tie this guy into it."

Crime Stoppers received calls hoping to tip off police about the perpetrator, as did the Sheriff's Office and other agencies, the captain said.

Detective Lieutenants Shawn Harris and Carl Lancaster have worked the case diligently for months, Effler said.

Back on Jan. 24, the set fire left a charred black hole at the eaves of the building's front entrance porch.

Because of the fire, some historical relics will never be recovered, like a table owned by the Aycock family and a clock made circa 1860, site officials said.

The 19th-century family farm was the birthplace of Charles B. Aycock, referred to by some as the state's "education governor."

Aycock's name has also been the subject of some recent controversy because he used segregationist rhetoric during his campaign for governor, which was not long before the Wilmington race riots.

This past October, gubernatorial candidate Richard Moore asked that Aycock's name be removed from the title of a Democratic Party annual dinner, because of his ties to segregationist sentiment.

Aycock's legacy also includes his work as a Goldsboro lawyer and Wayne County School superintendent. He also spent 17 years as chairman of the Goldsboro school board.

-- Staff Writer Matthew Whittle contributed research to this report.