Investigators still looking into what started Salisbury Millwork fire

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, February 18, 2020

SALISBURY — A day after Salisbury businessman Thomas Miller Cohen was charged and accused of setting fire to a local business, Salisbury fire investigators say they are continuing to look into what may have been used to set fire to the site of Salisbury Millwork.

Cohen, 60, of the 2000 block of Webb Road, was charged on Sunday with felony breaking and entering, felony burning other buildings, and felony larceny after breaking and entering. Salisbury Police brought the charges against Cohen hours after the fire but haven’t said what led them to identify Cohen.

Police Capt. Melonie Thompson said there were several vehicles in the parking lot with broken windows and body damage.

Cohen, president of J. Newton Cohen Heating and Air Conditioning, is the son of longtime Rowan County commissioner and Chairman J. Newton Cohen. The Rowan County Administrative Building is named after the late county leader.

Arrest warrants say Cohen stole a “computer CPU” valued at $1,000 that belonged to Bobby Clay Lindsay Jr. and “did willfully and maliciously burn a building within the curtilage of another.”

The fire was set sometime around 2:26 a.m. and discovered at 3:12 a.m., according to police reports and fire personnel.

Salisbury Fire Marshal Terry Smith said the fire was intentionally set but they are working to determine what was used to set it. The fire began in what was the tool room located behind a front office, Smith said.

He said investigators still have interviews to conduct and surveillance video to look through. They also will look at any available surveillance video at neighboring businesses.

County tax records show the building, located at 823 Corporate Circle, is owned by Clear Choice Investments. Bobby Clay Lindsay Jr., who owns Salisbury Millwork, occupies a suite in the front portion of the building that is next to Virginia Air.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to just Salisbury Millwork. There were several other fire departments that responded. No injuries were reported and the fire was extinguished within about two hours.

Cohen is expected to make a first appearance in court today.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.