Whiteville, NC – Columbus County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Unit and Columbus County Fire Marshal’s Office have completed a joint investigation of a structure fire that occurred at 166 Johnny George Road in Whiteville. As a result of the investigation, one individual has been charged for intentionally setting the fire.
On April 12, 2018, at approximately 6:30 am, the Columbus County Deputy Fire Marshall was dispatched to the residence on Johnny George Road in reference to a structure fire. Columbus County Sheriff’s Office was notified to assist with the investigation. The residence belonged to Thomas Baldwin of Whiteville. Mr. Baldwin allowed his nephew, Gebriel Jermaine Shipman, to reside in the residence. Mr. Shipman reported that he came home from work at approximately 6:30 am, to find that the interior of the residence had been burned.
Discrepancies during the investigation, led investigators to consider Mr. Shipman a person of interest. Mr. Shipman obtained a renter’s insurance policy in March 2018. However, throughout the investigation, Mr. Shipman lied to investigators about having an insurance policy. Mr. Shipman contacted the insurance company the same day as the fire, to initiate a claim. Investigators learned that the mortgage payments for the property were past due. Mr. Shipman was paying the mortgage payments directly to the lender. Therefore, Mr. Baldwin was unaware of any issues with the mortgage. On March 7, 2018, a representative from the mortgage company met with Mr. Shipman concerning the late mortgage payments. At that time, the residence was fully furnished with Mr. Shipman’s belongings. Investigators found the residence to be minimally furnished when they responded to the fire. The investigation revealed that Mr. Shipman had removed his personal belongings prior to the fire.
On April 11, 2018, Shipman used available materials to ignite the furniture, window coverings, and various other items inside of the residence. He then left the residence to burn. When he arrived home from work on the 12th, he dialed 911 to report the fire.
On June 13, 2018, at the conclusion of the investigation, Gebriel Shipman was arrested without incident at 105 Covey Run Apartments in Whiteville. He was charged for the above crimes. Mr. Shipman was processed at the Columbus County Law Enforcement Center. He was given a $10,000.00 unsecured bond.
- 1 felony count of Insurance Fraud
- 1 felony count of Attempting to Obtain Property by False Pretense
- 1 felony count of Fraudulently Burning a Dwelling.