HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (WREG) — A Helena-West Helena man is accused of intentionally setting a disabled man’s house on fire after an argument.
Fransisco Rincon lives just two doors from where his neighbor Darius Holmes died when his house went up in flames Monday morning.
“I heard the sirens coming down the street, and I knew they were nearby ’cause all of the sudden they cut the sirens off,” Rincon said. “I thought it might have been an accident, accidental death, or something.”
But Helena-West Helena Police said the deadly fire was no accident and was intentionally set by 23-year-old Austin Liston, who is described as a ‘vagrant’ but no stranger to police.
“Mr. Liston is a convicted felon of multiple offenses. We have had him in our custody multiple times,” said Helena-West Helena Police Detective Kelson Franklin
Two hours after the fire was extinguished, police received a tip stating Liston had been at the home and reportedly set the fire that killed Holmes. According to police, Liston set the fire to settle a score.
“An altercation between him and Mr. Holmes dating prior to the fire,” said Detective Franklin.
We were told the Arkansas State Police Fire Marshal’s unit collected samples of a possible accelerant and indications are the fire was set in a utility shed under a carport and quickly spread to the wood frame house.
The heat from Monday morning’s fire was so intense you can see where it melted the siding on the house next door just about 25 or 30 feet away.
Police said Holmes, who’d lost a leg to diabetes, was found dead inside the house by emergency responders.
It was a shock to Fransisco Rincon who regarded Holmes as a good neighbor.
“I hadn’t ever heard of him bothering anybody or nothin’. He was just a nice guy,” he said.
In addition to capital murder and arson, Austin Liston could face more charges. He remains in the Phillips County Detention Center and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.