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Jury finds owners responsible in Inn fire

Updated: Monday, December 31 2012, 05:49 PM EST

All that's left of the Richmond Hill Inn is the stone staircase and walkway that led up to the front door.

Neighbor Norman Harrill says the fire that torched the century-old building to the ground on the night of March 19, 2009 was suspcious from the beginning.

"The whole neighborhood was gathering out to the other side of the road watching the fire," said Harrill. "Everyone has thought it's suspicious because at that particular time [the owners] were in bankruptcy."

At the time of the fire, the Inn - owned by Hammocks, LLC - was in foreclosure and three days before officials had set a date for the property to be auctioned one month later.

Investigators determined the cause of the fire was arson after finding evidence that a petroleum product had been used to start the fire and the building's sprinkler system had been turned off.

This month in federal court, a jury ruled that the Hammocks, LLC participated in setting the building on fire, which will block the company from collecting on the $6 million insurance policy on the building.

Hammocks, LLC has also been ordered by a judge to reimburse Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company of legal fees incurred when Hammock, LLC sued them for not distributing the claims.

"I think they ought to find out who it is and prosecute," said Harrill.

"Right now I just don't have what it takes to be able to prove it," said former Asheville Arson Task Force investigator Buddy Thompson, who worked on the case, of why there are no criminal charges at this time.

Thompson said the case is still open, but he does not have enough evidence to lead to an arrest.

Jury finds owners responsible in Inn fire

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