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Two charged in motorcycle shop blaze
Officials: One suspect badly burned in arson attempt
Alan Kilgore
Alan Kilgore

Authorities believe Alan Kilgore nearly lost his life for a $1,000 fee.

Kilgore, 53, spent nearly a month in the burn ward of an Atlanta hospital recovering from second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body after a botched arson job, according to officials.

The Flowery Branch man was booked Friday into the Hall County jail on a charge of arson. Also charged with arson was 41-year-old Phillip Hall of Gainesville, the co-owner of a Buford motorcycle shop who fire and sheriff's officials say hired Kilgore to burn the business in a scheme to collect $500,000 in insurance.

Shortly before midnight Jan. 10, Kilgore poured gasoline and kerosene throughout Professional V Twin, a store located in a strip mall in the 2800 block of McEver Road, investigators say. The fumes were ignited by a gas heater, and the sudden flash of flames left Kilgore badly burned.

Despite his injuries, he drove home and went to bed, Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said. He was driven to Northeast Georgia Medical Center the following day, then transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition, where it was uncertain if he would live.

"The burns were very severe," Cagle said. "We've seen in past cases where infection has set in. I was concerned he wouldn't pull through, but he did."

Officials with the Hall County Fire Marshal's Office and Hall County Sheriff's Office investigated the case for more than a month before announcing the arrests Friday. Kilgore was discharged from the hospital prior to his arrest.

The arson investigation indirectly led to one of the largest marijuana seizures in Hall County history. Last week detectives went to the Belvedere Drive home of Lonnie Paul Chastain Sr., an acquaintance of Hall's, to talk to him about the arson case when they smelled a strong odor of marijuana outside the home. A subsequent search of the home off Price Road turned up more than 800 marijuana plants valued at $3 million growing in the basement.

Chastain was not believed to be involved in the arson, Hall County Sheriff's Maj. Jeff Strickland said.
Hall told officials the day after the fire that he had received threats on the business. Cagle said he believes that was a cover story for the plot. Hall's business partner and co-owner of the shop, Andy Sudderth, "has not been implicated at this time," Strickland said.

The damage to the building was estimated at $500,000, including the destruction of five motorcycles and an all-terrain vehicle. A firewall protected a neighboring cabinet shop from all but smoke and water damage.

Cagle said the arrests marked "a good outcome" to the case. "It's not every time with an arson investigation that you end up with all the pieces of the puzzle," Cagle said. "It all came together in the end."