MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Although the damage to the mobile home that burned off Burcale Road in Horry County Thursday is tucked behind the trees, almost unnoticeable, neighbors certainly did notice when fire broke out there. Firefighters found Claudy Strickland dead inside that home.
That fire caught even more attention Friday as news spread that Horry County Police had arrested three men in connection to the death and fire, and at least one of those men was living in the neighborhood.
Jessica Richardson said she got caught in all the commotion from the fire in her neighborhood, but she never realized it was suspicious.
"I thought it was maybe a stove fire or maybe somebody had fallen asleep smoking a cigarette or something," Richardson said.
So she was stunned to hear three people have been charged in connection to the fire and the death of Strickland. What is even more unsettling is that Horry County Police say at least one suspect was living in the neighborhood.
Lisa tucker said she recognized two of the men and that one of them would ride his bicycle by her home and sometimes talk to her mother in-law.
"I was scared that if our vehicles hadn't been home would it have possibly been her," Tucker wondered. "It's such a shock to know somebody you see on an almost daily basis has the want or action to do that," she said. "It makes you wonder what drove them to commit this crime."
Horry county police say they have figured out at least part of the motive.
"The things that we saw on scene lead us to believe that the victim was robbed and then killed prior to the fire being set," explained Sergeant Robert Kegler.
"I don't know if they were acquaintances, hung out from time to time," Kegler said. "That's what we're still working on."
Kegler also said a gas can was found at one suspects home.
"The thing about it is gas cans are common," he said. "Almost every household has one. That may or may not have anything to do with this incident."
Richardson and Tucker said they are glad arrests have been made, and now some in the neighborhood are considering alarm systems and even handguns for future protection.
"They always say it doesn't happen in my neighborhood," Tucker said. "You always hear that. It does happen in your neighborhood. It's happened in my neighborhood."