Testimony Puts Salvage Yard Owner at Business Minutes Before Fire


Video evidence introduced in the arson trial of a Knox businessman indicates he was the last person to leave the property and did so minutes before the first smoke was visible. James Campbell owns Starke County Recycling, Campbell’s Tire Barn and C&C Salvage on U.S. 35 south of Toto Road in Knox. The businesses caught fire just after 5 p.m. on March 20, 2014. Then-Chief Investigator Kenny Pfost from the Starke County Sheriff’s Department testified Campbell left the business at 4:59 p.m. and pulled into his driveway next door. He left his house at 5:02 p.m., and the first smoke was spotted on the video 40-seconds later. Video also indicates two employees left just before Campbell did.

Pfost was called to the business in mid-January by employee Roy McDaniel, who was being paid take care of Campbell’s German Shepherd, Bo. He testified the dog’s food was stored at the shop. While in there he found gas, oxygen and acetylene bottles, tires, stacks of cardboard and several bales of straw and other flammable items. McDaniel brought his camera, took photos and contacted the sheriff’s department. Pfost, who is now the chief deputy, went to the business on Jan. 17, 2014 after viewing the photos. He got a search warrant based on what he saw, returned to the business and removed items he perceived to be an immediate threat. Pfost said he left a copy of the search warrant for Campbell and tried to telephone him but never got a response. No charges were filed at that time.

Campbell’s cousin, Timothy Campbell, also testified for the state and said his cousin told him four or five months before the fire he was not making any money from the business and said he was going to “burn it down.” Under cross examination he acknowledged his cousin may have been “blowing off steam” with his statement.

Pfost is the final witness for the state. His testimony will continue when the proceedings resume at 9 a.m. Campbell’s attorney plans to call three witnesses. Closing arguments are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday morning. Campbell is charged with arson as a Class A felony. If convicted he faces between 20 and 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.