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Forsyth officials suspect homeowner in arson

Investigators arrest boyfriend in fire; woman also faces drug charges

POSTED: February 5, 2009 12:34 a.m.
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Pamela Graf

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CUMMING — A woman arrested on drug charges Wednesday has also been named as a suspect in the Jan. 18 fire that destroyed her five-bedroom home near Lake Lanier.

Pamela Morrow Graf, 47, of 8075 Lanier Drive was arrested early Wednesday morning by the Forsyth County Fire Explosives Investigative Unit. Graf is being held without bond in the Forsyth County Detention Center, jail records show.

She has been charged with possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a Schedule 3 narcotic and possession of a Schedule 4 narcotic.

The fire that destroyed her home was ruled arson less than a week after it happened.

Forsyth County Fire Marshal Steve Anderson said Graf was arrested as a result of evidence found when investigators searched her vehicle Wednesday. "At this point in time she’s been listed as a suspect (in the arson)," he said.

Investigators have arrested Graf’s boyfriend, 46-year-old Steven Edward Strobel of Barrow County, in connection with the fire.

Strobel, who was arrested at his home, faces charges of obstruction of justice and providing a false statement.

Charges stemming from the blaze could be brought against Graf within the next couple of days, Anderson said.

Graf’s father, William Morrow, said he learned about his daughter’s arrest and suspicion in the fire from a friend Wednesday afternoon.

"I’m just shocked, just absolutely shocked," said Morrow, who also lives on Lanier Drive, not far from his daughter’s former home.

Morrow said he did not know if Graf has retained a lawyer and declined to comment further.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said Graf was arrested at the Comfort Suites hotel on Ga. 20, where she had been staying since the fire.

Authorities also are investigating graffiti spray-painted on a fence along Graf’s property that included a racial slur and the phrase "your black boy will die."

"I think the graffiti and the fire are related," Anderson said.

Graf reportedly left Jan. 16 for the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., and returned late Jan. 19.

She has maintained she was targeted because of her support for President Barack Obama.

Graf said she had found a threatening note in her mailbox shortly after the New Year’s Day holiday.

She said she didn’t notify authorities because she didn’t take it seriously, though she did remove an Obama campaign sign from her yard.

Forsyth County tax records value the 3,000-square-foot home in northeastern Forsyth at $255,490.

The arrest on drug charges is Graf’s latest contact with authorities.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s reports show that she has been involved in at least nine documented incidents since September 2006.

Those incidents include a report of her home being burglarized and complaints against her of shoplifting and loitering and prowling.

A complaint also was filed against Graf for criminal trespass, the reports show, and she and an incarcerated ex-boyfriend have accused each other of harassing communications. Graf has said she has a restraining order against the man.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has participated in the investigation, and the FBI was notified of the incident.

State Farm Insurance company also has worked with fire investigators on the case.



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