Former Volunteer Firefighters Enter Guilty Pleas

Sunday, January 21, 2001

Six former members of the Sequoyah Volunteer Fire Department entered guilty pleas Thursday in connection with a blaze that killed 27-year-old Danny Neil Hixson.

County arson detective James Swafford said the firemen started the blaze in a vacant house using gasoline "because they were bored and wanted to be heroes."

Officials said Hixson was in the attic spreading gasoline when the blaze ignited and he was unable to get out.

Five of the defendants were given 10-year sentences, while a sixth defendant, Elmond Earl Sims, got one year suspended. His plea was to accessory after the fact to criminal conspiracy.

The other five had pleas to aggravated burglary and arson.

They are Shannon D. Downs, Donald Ray Gunner, Michael Allen Parker, Ronnie Parker Jr. and Timothy Dale Worley.

Worley also pled guilty to a sex charge with a minor and conspiracy to alter a manufacturer's ID number. Those cases are separate from the fire. He got one year on each of those cases consecutive to an 8-year term on the fire.

The other four defendants got 10 years on the fire.

One defendant went directly into custody and the others are to report later.

Det. Swafford said when the fire was set June 26, 1999, it had been two months since the unit had gotten a call.

He said there were a number of suspicious fires at vacant houses in the Soddy-Daisy area at that time, and he said most of the houses were not insured.

Det. Swafford said, "They had not been getting many calls and were looking for something to do."

The arrests were made July 15, 1999.

County officials afterwards had a probe of the Sequoyah Volunteer Fire Department with recommendations for improvements.

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