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Woman, boyfriend charged with arson
Homeowner blamed politics for blaze
strobel steveWEB
Steve Edward Strobel

A woman whose house near Lake Lanier was destroyed in a suspicious fire Jan. 18 has been charged along with her boyfriend in connection with the blaze.

Pamela Morrow Graf, 47, of 8075 Lanier Drive faces one count of arson in the first degree.

She has been held at the Forsyth County Detention Center since Tuesday night, when she was arrested on felony and misdemeanor drug charges by Forsyth County fire investigators.

Her boyfriend, 46-year-old Steve Edward Strobel, was also charged with first-degree arson Friday afternoon.

Strobel, who was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Barrow County, was initially charged with obstruction of justice and providing a false statement in connection with the incident.

Forsyth County Fire Marshal Steve Anderson did not rule out additional charges, noting that the investigation is continuing.

"The motive we think at this time is going to be monetary, insurance fraud," he said.

Anderson said Graf was unemployed at the time of the fire. She lived alone in the home, which she had tried to sell over the summer.

"These charges are based on information obtained through scene investigation, interviews and search warrants," he said.

Anderson declined to comment on the cause and origin of the fire.

Both suspects are being held without bond.

Graf's father, William Morrow, has said he was "shocked, just absolutely shocked" to hear about his daughter's possible involvement in the fire. Morrow also lives on Lanier Drive, not far from his daughter's former home.

It could not be determined if Graf or Strobel has retained a lawyer.

Strobel also faces drug charges in Barrow County as a result of the search at his house.

Strobel was returned to Barrow County on Friday night after posting bond, Anderson said, though he expects the suspect will be sent back on the arson charge.

He said Graf was arrested Tuesday after investigators searched her hotel room and vehicle.

She 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 charges cap a weeks-long investigation into the fire.

Anderson commended the investigative unit staff "for their fine and diligent work in this case."

The fire occured about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 18.

Graf claimed to have been out of town, telling authorities she and Strobel drove to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 16 for the presidential inauguration.

They camped in a van while in the nation's capital, she said, returning Jan. 19 after they learned about the fire.

Officials were not able to verify her story.

Graf maintained the five-bedroom home, whose value Forsyth County tax records list at $255,490, was burned because of her support for President Barack Obama.

Someone also spray-painted graffiti that included a racial slur and the phrase "your black boy will die" on a fence along Graf's property.

Anderson said the graffiti is part of the ongoing investigation, noting authorities suspect it's connected.

The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and State Farm insurance investigators also participated in the probe.