Starkville authorities investigate possible arson

August 28, 2009 11:24:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- A day after fire ripped through his chiropractic office on Russell Street, Dr. Robert Leach was back to work Thursday, only this time it was from a new location: his home. 


Patients filed in and out of the green Victorian on South Jackson Street and made their way to the parlor, where Leach tried to conduct business as usual. But it wasn''t the same.  


Boxes of partially charred files lined the hallway; Leach''s staff was set up at makeshift work stations, and the inside of his old office, located for the past 10 years at the corner of Russell and Hogan streets, was in ruins.  


Emergency 911 operators received a call just after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday from a passerby who spotted a fire in Leach''s office. Firefighters responded and extinguished the blaze, but that was only the beginning of the investigation.  


Starkville police and fire officials are investigating the incident as a possible arson, SPD Detective William Durr said.  


"We believe the fire was intentional, but it''s still under investigation," Durr said.  


The culprit or culprits gained entry to the building by breaking a window, Durr said. Authorities also discovered some property was missing, he said.  


The inside of the building suffered extensive smoke and heat damage. Leach believes the damage is so severe he won''t be able to return to the location. He already has started to look for new office space. 


The blaze only claimed a handful of patient charts, Leach said, though others are partially charred. Leach also lost computers, desks, cabinets and other property, including rehabilitation equipment. 


"All the equipment is totally wasted," Leach said.  


An insurance adjuster was at the office Thursday morning to survey the damage. The office reaked of burnt wood and smoke. 


Despite the heavy losses, Leach was thankful nobody was injured in the blaze, especially the firefighters. And he was thankful for the support he''s received since the fire.  


"There''s been phone calls and prayers from everywhere," Leach said. "We deeply appreciate it." 


Anyone with information on the blaze is asked to call the Starkville Police Department at 662-323-4131.