Two men died in Raleigh on a frozen-over night 10 months ago, smashed by a Volvo that fled down Interstate 40.
On Saturday, emergency responders in the vacation town of Carolina Beach found two bodies in the wreckage from a suspected arson spree.
In both cases, the same name appeared in police statements: Marshall Hudson Doran, 22.
The Kure Beach resident faces multiple felony charges in the Feb. 13 hit-and-run. On Sunday, police linked Doran to the investigation of the arson cases. He had been arrested a day earlier on a burglary charge at a residential property near the fires.
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New Hanover County investigators gave few details about the fires, but they provided a written timeline that put Doran near the scene of the suspected crimes on Saturday morning.
“To be clear, this is not just a tragedy. It’s a murder, and nothing less,” District Attorney Benjamin David said.
Police called Doran a “person of interest” in three fires this weekend, according to authorities. Police did not define their use of “person of interest,” but it has been widely used by law enforcement to describe someone who is the subject of an investigation or might have information about a crime.
Doran, who at one time was a UNC-Wilmington student, was the only person named in the investigation Sunday. An attorney who represented Doran in the hit-and-run case could not be reached Sunday for comment.
The first report of fire came at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday from Carolina Beach Avenue South, where firefighters evacuated a burning condominium. The next came at 3:45 a.m., just a few blocks away. And a vehicle fire was reported within a half-mile soon after.
Doran was arrested at 5:30 a.m., on a charge of attempted burglary, a few hundred yards from the first fire. On Sunday, the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office hadn’t issued criminal charges in the reported arson or explained Doran’s suspected connection.
2 condo units burn
Fire Chief Alan Griffin seemed shaken as he talked about the fires’ aftermath at a press conference Sunday morning.
“We spent yesterday going through the leftovers of the fire,” he said. “Our guys were brave. They worked hard – we had a lot of fire to deal with.”
It wasn’t clear whether the two bodies were found at the same site.
One fire destroyed a 12-unit beachfront condominium, according to the Associated Press. A second blaze, about a half-mile away, heavily damaged a second 12-unit building. A car was burned about two miles south of the condos, the AP reported, and Doran was arrested at a fourth location.
The American Red Cross is providing temporary housing for 18 people.
“There were many people who were affected,” David said.
Authorities planned autopsies Monday morning to identify the fires’ victims.
Raleigh charges pending
Doran’s charges in the fatal Raleigh hit-and-run are pending. Investigators alleged that Doran, driving a 2001 Volvo, struck two men as they tried to help a stranded trucker.
Authorities said they found Doran hiding in a wooded area some 10 miles away. At the time, he was a student at UNC-Wilmington.
Doran was charged in the Raleigh crash with two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, felony hit-and-run causing death, reckless driving with wanton disregard for others, misdemeanor driving while impaired, possession of a Schedule 2 drug, and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
The crash killed Larry Austin Kepley, 39, of Winston-Salem and Nathaniel Jeremiah Williams, 34, of Hope Mills.
Doran’s previous criminal record included a charge of speeding last year, which resulted in a verdict of improper equipment, a 2009 charge of reckless driving that resulted in a verdict of improper equipment, and a 2008 larceny charge and misdemeanor paraphernalia and marijuana charges from three dates in 2009 that were all dismissed.
Doran was being held Sunday at the New Hanover County Detention Facility on $2.5 million bond.