Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

TOP STORY>> Governor offers reward in fires

IN SHORT: The reward would come from Huckabee's emergency fund for information on fires at Sherwood Elementary School and Hope High School.

By BRIAN RODRIGUEZ
Leader staff writer

Gov. Mike Huckabee an-nounced Tuesday he is offering two rewards of $10,000 each from his emergency fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people responsible for setting fires at Sher-wood Elementary School and at Hope High School.
“We’re doing everything in our power to solve these crimes, which are truly crimes against children of Arkansas,” he said at a press conference at the Governor’s Mansion.

“The public schools are among the most important places in any Arkan-sas community.”
Besides the property damage they caused, the fires interfered with classroom instruction and robbed both communities of an important symbol in their communities.

“We know someone out there knows something,” he said. “Holding information in, if they have any, doesn’t do anyone any good.”
Huckabee also has a personal interest in the matter: Huckabee, his wife and his parents had all attended Hope High School.
The first fire was set in the Sherwood Elementary School cafeteria on April 9.

Investigators said the fire was started in three different places in the cafeteria and caused about $500,000 to the school. The cafeteria, kitchen and stage were damaged in the blaze, and smoke filled the entire first and second floors of the school during the fire.

Sherwood Elementary students went to First Assembly of God in North Little Rock for eight days while the school was cleaned up.
“I want to publicly thank the First Assembly of God for helping house our students,” said Don Henderson, superintendent of Pulaski County Special School District. “Otherwise, those students would have had to stay home and miss out on their education.”
Huckabee, along with the Sherwood and Hope police chiefs, seemed hopeful that the reward would bring results.

“I hope that we can make an announcement soon that the award money will be awarded,” Huckabee said.

“Our school is vital to our community,” said Sherwood Police Chief Kelvin Nicholson. “As the investigation goes on, I hope that every day we’re closer to making an arrest.”

“I’m an optimistic person and I hope we bring this case to an end in an expedient manner,” said Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson.
The second fire was started in the old cafeteria of Hope High School on April 17.

The fire spread upward to the library on the second floor and to the book room on the third floor, destroying numerous books and a new computer lab. The school had just finished a $2.6 million renovation.

“We were proud to finally have something new, and they just took it,” said Hope assistant principal Juneanne Brown.

Cleanup efforts alone are estimated at $1 million. School officials expect the total damage to exceed $2 million.

Anyone with information about either fire should contact:

Arkansas State Police Crime Tip Hotline at 800-553-3820.
Sherwood Police Department at 835-1425.
Hope Police Department at 755-2552.