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Charges in fire could come soon
Drug suspect may have burned home
strobel steveWEB
Steve Edward Strobel

A woman who lost her house in suspicious fire Jan. 18 could be charged in connection with the blaze as early as Friday, authorities said.

Pam Graf, 47, remained Thursday at the Forsyth County Detention Center, where she has been held since the Forsyth County Fire Explosives Investigative Unit arrested her on felony and misdemeanor drug charges Tuesday night.

Forsyth County Fire Marshal Steve Anderson said Graf was arrested after a search of her hotel room and vehicle Tuesday.

“We do have a lot of evidence and a lot of it is documents and financials and all that,” Anderson said. “It just takes time to go through it.”

In the meantime, Graf faces several drug possession charges, including having less than one ounce of marijuana, cocaine with intent to distribute and Schedule 3 and Schedule 4 narcotics.

The fire that destroyed her five-bedroom home at  8085 Lanier Drive in northeastern Forsyth was ruled arson within a week after it happened.

Fire officials have described Graf and her boyfriend, Steve Edward Strobel, as suspects.

Authorities arrested Strobel on Tuesday night at his home in Barrow County. Graf was arrested at the Comfort Suites hotel on Hwy. 20 where she had been staying since the fire.

Strobel, 46, faces charges of obstruction of justice and providing a false statement in connection with the fire investigation.  Both he and Graf are being held without bond.

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.

Graf was not home when the fire occured. She told authorities she and Strobel left Jan. 16 for the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., and came back Jan. 19 after learning about the fire.

But Anderson said investigators have not been able to verify her story.

“There’s just no proof that we can confirm,” he said, adding that Graf and Strobel say they drove to the nation's capital and camped in a van.

Anderson said investigators have been unable to develop evidence to eliminate Graf as a suspect, despite her contention she was targeted because of her support for President Barack Obama.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating graffiti someone spray-painted on a fence along Graf’s property that included a racial slur and the phrase “your black boy will die.”

Anderson said he thinks the fire and graffiti are connected.

Graf has said she received a threatening note in her mailbox after the New Year’s Day holiday.

She has said she didn’t report it to authorities because she didn't take it seriously. She did, however, remove an Obama campaign sign from her yard. Another sign disappeared before the presidential election on Nov. 4.

She may not have reported the note, but sheriff’s reports show Graf 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 for criminal trespassing and loitering and prowling.

She has also been accused of shoplifting, the reports show, and also has reported her car and checkbook stolen.

In addition, she and an incarcerated ex-boyfriend have filed complaints against each other for harassing communications. Graf maintains she has a restraining order against the man.

Neighbors reported that Graf had been trying to sell her 3,000-square-foot home near Lake Lanier.

She dismissed those accounts, however, saying she put up a for sale sign over the summer in order to teach a lesson to her three children, ages 11, 14 and 17.

According to Forsyth County Superior Court records, the children live with their father.

Anderson said Graf did try to sell her house, but it was not on the market at the time of the fire, which occurred about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 18.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said several residents called 911 the morning of the blaze.

“There were calls from neighbors in close proximity and calls from those some distance away who were seeing the flames through the trees and not sure where it was,” Shivers said. “So there were multiple calls and multiple callers advising various locations also.”

Shivers said none of the calls came from the house, which was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters got there.
Forsyth County tax records list the value of the home at $255,490.

State Farm insurance company and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been participating in the investigation. The FBI also monitored the case as it developed, authorities said.