Sex offender faces more charges for string of fires

Fires in two counties date back to December, 2011

Deputies: Suspect burned buildings to "clean up the neighborhood" (Reporter: Jon Erickson)

PITT & BEAUFORT COUNTIES - A Pitt County sex offender, accused of setting several fires in two counties, is facing more charges.

Beaufort County deputies have now charged 46-year-old Albert Jeffrey Manning, of County Home Road in Ayden, with two counts of felony burning certain buildings. He was already being held in the Pitt County Detention Center on five counts of burning of certain buildings, and failure to register as sex offender.

According to investigators, Manning had already admitted to setting the two fires in Beaufort County, as well as the five in Pitt County.

Deputies said the two fires in Beaufort County were both at abandoned residences on Highway 102 in Chocowinity. They happened on Dec. 27, 2012 and March 10, 2013, respectively.

The five fires in Pitt County were at abandoned residences as well, deputies said. Three of the five blazes were on County Home Road; the other two were on Leary Mills Road and  NC 102 East. The fires happened between December, 2011 to February, 2013, deputies said. Evidence revealed that Manning was at those locations just moments before the blazes started, according to investigators.

"He said he was cleaning up the neighborhood," said Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks.

Manning started at least one of the fires by lighting a rag on ablaze and dropping it on a couch in the building, Sheriff Elks said. Manning would sometimes return to the fire scene a day later and remove scrap metal to sell for profit, Sheriff Elks added.

Manning was arrested on March 13, on a warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.  Records show he pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a child in 2008.

While in custody, he was shown evidence of the Pitt County fires and admitted to starting them, as well as two more fires in Beaufort County, deputies said. According to investigators, Manning gave specific details on how the set each blaze.

Manning was charged with five counts of burning of certain buildings; and failure to register as sex offender. He could also be charged for selling the scrap metal from the fire scenes, Sheriff Elks said.

He was initially placed in the Pitt County Detention Center under a $35,000 bond. Authorities increased his bond by $25,000 for the Beaufort County charges.

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