First Witnesses Testify in Salvage Yard Arson Trial


The first two witnesses for the state have testified in the arson trial of a Knox man accused of setting his business on fire. James Campbell owns C&C Salvage, also known as Starke County Recycling, at the intersection of U.S. 35 and Toto Road. The business caught fire last March 20, and Campbell was arrested eight days later on an arson charge. The state’s first witness was a mechanic named Tim Graves, who worked for Campbell for two weeks prior to the fire. He testified Campbell sent him out to get seven gallons of gas and a 50-foot extension cord about two hours before the fire started.

Graves said the gas was for several vehicles and pieces of equipment at the business, and the extension cord was purchased to power a battery charger for a wrecked Mercedes SUV that was parked inside the shop area. The general manager of Advance Auto in Knox testified he sold Graves a five-gallon gas can and the extension cord that day. Graves said he was unable to start the Mercedes due to a security code he could not reset without a call to the manufacturer. He testified Campbell told him he would take care of it, and Graves left a short time afterward.

The business caught fire just after 5 p.m. Firefighters from eight local departments responded and spent several hours battling the blaze. One firefighter was injured, which elevated the charge against Campbell to a Class A felony. If convicted he faces between 20 and 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Several members of the Bass Lake Fire Department are listed as witnesses in the trial, as are investigators from the state fire marshal’s office, Starke County Sheriff’s Department and Campbell’s insurance company. Proceedings resume tomorrow at 9 a.m.