06/21/09 — Aycock arson suspect takes plea deal

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Aycock arson suspect takes plea deal

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 21, 2009 2:00 AM

An 18-year-old Pikeville man pleaded guilty to a role in the 2008 arson of turn-of-the-century Gov. Charles B. Aycock's historic birthplace, court records show.

Derwood Eugene Smith III, who was 17 at the time of the Jan. 18, 2008 fire, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the burning of a public building.

Smith, along with James Sean Suggs, 38, originally was charged with burning a public building, a Class F felony.

Pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact lowered the severity of the punishment from a Class F felony down to a Class H felony, in accordance with state sentencing guidelines.

Wayne County Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones sentenced him to 42 months supervised probation Thursday, with a suspended 8-month maximum sentence in the state Department of Correction.

Smith also was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service at the rate of 20 hours per week unless he is employed at least 30 hours a week.

Additionally, Smith was ordered to pay $1,000 in fines and $3,000 in restitution to the Charles B. Aycock birthplace, a learning lab where students take field trips to learn about agriculture and history.

The site, two miles south of Fremont, features the original nineteenth-century farmstead -- buildings that include a house, kitchen and other structures.

After the January fire, site manager Leigh Strickland said some artifacts inside the building were completely destroyed, including a clock made in the 1860s and a table the Aycock family owned.

Law enforcement and fire officials estimated the damage to the structure at around $200,000, before adding the value of artifacts and other items inside the burned home.

The worst damage was on the rear side of the house, where the fire burned a hole through the structure.

In May, Gov. Bev Perdue called the firefighters and a Wayne County Sheriff's Office detective to the state capitol to present them with a proclamation acknowledging their efforts.

Suggs, the other person implicated in the arson, is already in prison on unrelated charges, according to state Department of Correction records.

The records show Suggs is currently serving time in Johnston Correctional Instit-ution in Smithfield on a charge of habitual felon status.

Suggs has also served time for possession of precursor chemicals to methamphetamine.

His sentence for burning a public building was consolidated with the habitual felon status charge, with a projected release date in 2014.