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Suspect in house fire disappears
Ankle monitor found along middle Georgia road
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Forsyth County News

An arson suspect who also faces drug charges in two counties appears to have skipped town rather than return to jail.

Authorities said Pamela Morrow Graf, 47, disappeared early last week after removing an ankle monitor in Twiggs County (click for map), east of Macon, where she had a court hearing scheduled.

Graf was released from the Forsyth County Jail on March 24 after she posted bond on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.

The arrest came while she was out on bond for previous charges of arson, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of Schedule 3 and Schedule 4 narcotics.

The arson charge stems from a suspicious fire Jan. 18 that destroyed Graf's home on Lanier Drive in northeastern Forsyth.

After her most recent arrest, the Forsyth County District Attorney’s office announced its intention to have Graf’s bond revoked.

As a condition of her release on the drug and arson charges, Graf was required to wear an ankle monitor.

Robert Tavanier, director of Forsyth County Pretrial Services, said the device was found on the side of a road in Twiggs County.

“She had a motion to suppress hearing scheduled down there and she cut off her monitor and threw it off over on the side of the road and did not appear for that hearing,” he said.

Tavanier said the device was found the morning after it was removed. It appears Graf cut the rubber strap to get it off. Forsyth County has issued an arrest warrant.

“I don’t think that she really has the means to run, so to speak,” he said. “If she can run, it’s only a matter of time before she gets picked up at a roadblock or does something stupid to get arrested.”

Tavanier said he thinks Graf’s pending bond revocation may have led her to flee.

He said the monitor sends out Global Positioning System signals that track the person wearing it. He said the strap has detectors in it that when tampered with alert authorities.

Attempts to reach Graf’s attorney, Richard Young, were not successful. Forsyth County Superior Court documents show Young filed a motion March 19 to withdraw his representation, though an order has not been issued.

Graf is the second local suspect this year to have eluded authorities by shedding an ankle monitor. They are also searching for Marcus Tillman, who disappeared midway through a trial in February.

Despite his absence, a jury convicted Tillman on child molestation, aggravated sodomy and cruelty to children charges. He was sentenced March 19 to 40 years in prison.

Tavanier said authorities have not been able to find Tillman’s monitor.

“An ankle monitor is not meant to stop someone from fleeing,” Tavanier said. “It’s meant to track that individual in certain circumstances.”

He said Graf and Tillman will each likely face an additional charge of tampering with a monitoring device, which is a felony.

Tillman was the first local suspect to remove a monitor since 2007, Tavanier said.

“Since 2005, we’ve had four,” he said. “That’s not so bad considering pretrial’s caseload is about 700 ... We have about 20 current cases on ankle monitors, roughly 20 to 25.”

Graf’s home near Lake Lanier burned to the ground Jan. 18.

Authorities maintain Graf and her boyfriend, Steve Edward Strobel, set the fire to commit insurance fraud and tried to make it appear as if she had been targeted because of her support for President Barack Obama.

They have not confirmed that Graf and Strobel were in Washington, D.C. -- where they claimed to have gone that weekend for the presidential inauguration -- when the fire occurred.

In addition, someone spray-painted racist graffiti on a fence along Graf’s property. Authorities have said they think the fire and the writing are related.

Strobel, 46, of Barrow County, was charged Feb. 3 with obstruction of justice and providing a false statement in connection with the fire. He was subsequently charged with first degree arson.

He was released Feb. 22 from the Forsyth County Jail after posting $27,610 bail.