An Apalachicola man has confessed to burglary and arson.
Investigator Eric Bryant with the state fire marshal’s office identified arson as the cause of a Aug. 23, 2016 house fire in Apalachicola. The house that burned at 214 Ninth Street belonged to Mark and Terry Galbraith. They had been renovating it for 10 years hoping eventually to retire there.
Police said they discovered a viable fingerprint on a window at the Galbraith house, and matched it to Ben Turrell III using the Florida Division of Law Enforcement Biometric Identification System.
On Sept. 16, 2016, Turrell, 39, confessed to burglarizing the home and returning with gasoline to torch it.
At the time the fingerprint was identified, Turrell was in custody facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and trespassing, after he threatened to stab an Apalachicola resident in the face with a pocket knife. The victim had confronted Turrell for trespassing on an elderly relative’s property.
During his interview with law enforcement concerning the Ninth Street arson, Turrell also confessed to burglarizing a residence at 211 Eighth Street in Apalachicola.
On Aug. 26, 2016, Apalachicola Police Officer Chet Turner responded to an alarm call at the Eighth Street residence where he found a bedroom window smashed and a drum positioned to allow the burglar to climb inside the house.
Turrell had destroyed the control panel for the house’s alarm system and removed two television sets from the property, police said.
That night, Officer Ginger Creamer staked out the burglarized house, which belonged to Linda Buchanan, who lived out of state. About 3:30 a.m. she heard noises across the street and called Turner who returned to the scene and discovered Turrell lying atop a trailer. When Turner questioned him, Turrell accused the officer of harassment and left the area on foot.
Investigators suspected arson from the start in the Ninth Street blaze because the fire originated both on the front door and on the rear porch of the house. Bryant also reported there was a strong odor of gasoline at the site.
On Tuesday morning, August 23 at around 3 a.m. the Gailbraith’s alarm was triggered. The couple received a call from neighbors telling them that the house was on fire.
Apalachicola's volunteer fire department responded and was able to end the blaze but not before the entire interior of the structure was burned.
Prior to the fire, the couple received several calla over a two-day period from ADT, their security company reporting movement in and around the house. But investigating police officers found only damage to the front door and nothing appeared to have been taken.