By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Testimony shifts over to drugs
Arson suspect had spacey demeanor
Pam Graf Trial 2 es
Forsyth County Fire Lt. Debbie Lindstrom and Forsyth County Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge look through the 31 shoes collected as evidence in the Pam Graf arson case. - photo by Emily Saunders


* Judge: Appointed attorney stays put.

Drugs and 31 pairs of shoes were among items witnesses said surfaced during their investigation of a 48-year-old woman charged with burning down her north Forsyth home.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Investigator Jeff Roe testified Wednesday that he searched Pamela Morrow Graf’s purse as part of a Feb. 3, 2009, check of her hotel room and vehicle.

“In one of the pill bottles [in her purse] we located a quantity of what was determined to be cocaine and a quantity of marijuana,” Roe said.

Graf is on trial for one count each of first-degree arson, possession of cocaine and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in connection with the Jan. 18, 2009, blaze at her home on Lanier Drive.

Her former boyfriend and alleged co-conspirator, Steven Edward Strobel of Winder, was convicted last week of arson and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Graf has claimed she and Strobel had traveled to Washington, D.C., for the presidential inauguration and weren’t home when the fire occurred.

She also told authorities graffiti containing a racial slur and phrase spray-painted on a fence along her property was a hate crime because of her support for President Barack Obama.

Wednesday, Roe was one of several witnesses who told of their search of the Cumming hotel room Graf stayed in after the blaze.

Graf’s purse was taken to the sheriff’s criminal investigation office, where the contents of the container were tested.

The same night of the search at the hotel, authorities also checked Strobel’s home and storage units he had rented in Winder. Forsyth County Fire Lt. Debbie Lindstrom said she was part of the group that handled the search.

She testified that various items of Graf’s were found in a bedroom in Strobel’s house. Among them were her clothing, passport, financial records and items belonging to her children.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge emptied a large paper bag on the floor in front of the jury.

The bag contained what Lindstrom identified as the 31 pairs of Graf’s shoes also found at Strobel’s house. The footwear ranged from flip-flops to boots and included casual and dress shoes.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Whirlow said the field test he conducted at the hotel on one of the substances in the pill container was positive for cocaine.

Whirlow said authorities found an “8-ball,” or about 3.4 grams, of the drug worth $250 to $300 and also what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette in Graf’s makeup bag.

Nicholas Cardella tests suspected marijuana for the sheriff’s crime scene unit.

The reserve deputy said the samples given to him by the investigators came up positive for the drug.

Sheriff’s Deputy John Hamilton testified that he found a baggie containing a white, powdery substance and a red straw in the back of his patrol car after he took Graf from the hotel to the investigation office.

The items were secured as evidence in the fire department’s arson investigation.

Fire Capt. Kevin Wallace testified the hotel room search produced financial documents, tax records and newspaper articles.

He said Graf arrived as authorities were leaving. They then went through her vehicle and purse, which she had placed on the ground.

Wallace said Graf was arrested at the site in connection with the suspected marijuana found in her hotel room.

Graf was cooperative but had a “spacey demeanor,” said Wallace, who had not talked with her previously.

Wallace said he took the suspected cocaine samples to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab in Cleveland for further testing.

Adam Rudolph, a forensic chemist with the GBI, confirmed the substance tested positive for cocaine.