ACCOMACK COUNTY - Two people have been charged with the latest arson in Accomack County and officials say more charges are expected.
40-year-old Tonya Bundick and 38-year-old Charles Smith, a.k.a. Charlie Applegate, both of Parksley, were charged with one felony count each of arson and conspiracy to commit arson.
Officials say the two, who are boyfriend and girlfriend, set fire to a vacant home in Melfa late Monday night.
According to the arrest warrant issued for Bundick, "Surveillance units watched a vehicle drop off an individual at a location on Airport Road. Individual proceeded to set fire to residence at address. A vehicle returned and picked up individual."
Bundick and Smith were taken into custody during a traffic stop not far from the fire on Airport Drive. That fire was discovered at 11:40 p.m. Monday and they were stopped just after midnight Tuesday, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller explained.
“Based on evidence collected since this morning and during the course of the investigations over the past five months, we are confident that Bundick and Smith are responsible for the majority of the fires set since November 12th of last year,” said Capt. Tim Reibel, Commander of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Sources say Smith is a former captain of the Tasley Volunteer Fire Department, but Geller stressedthat Smith was not a firefighter at the time the arsons were committed.
"I would never think anything bad of her or him. They didn't seem like those kind of people. One of my friends sent me a text this morning and told me. I said 'no way,'" said a friend, Liz Fentress.
Bundick's cousin, Tanya Stevens, believes Tonya was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She says Bundick has never been in trouble before.
"Tonya loves her kids too much to do something so stupid," she said.
Mid-morning, a Va. State Police vehicle was parked at a home in Parksley. Neighbors said Bundick lives in there with her two children.
Keith Johnson, a back-door neighbor, said he was shocked to find out that she's been charged in Monday night's fire.
Bundick has a shop on Tasley Road called A Tiny Taste of Toot, Stevens said. It was closed Tuesday afternoon.
Next door is Charlie's Autobody, apparently owned by Smith, neighbors say.
Geller said at a Tuesday morning news conference that Bundick has no relationship or employment with any law enforcement/first responder agencies in Accomack Co.
The fire is the latest in a series of more than 70 arsons to abandoned buildings since mid-November 2012. 16 of the 77 arsons were set in Parksley.
"We’ve worked hand in hand with State Police and I think we’re finally going to bring this to closure," said Accomack Co. Sheriff Todd Godwin. "We’re still following up on some leads, and we should know something (about other arsons) later today, probably."
Geller said that they have received over 1200 tips over the last five months but they still encourage anyone with information about these arsons to call or text the hotline: 757-655-1437. There's a $25,000 reward.