After months of intense and thorough investigation of a four-year-old case, an arrest has been made stemming from a 2019 home explosion that took the life of Michael Blake Campbell. Jeff Carter, formally of Paragould and now residing in Lewisburg, Tennessee, was recently apprehended by deputies with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee. The arrest came after a bench warrant was issued here in Greene County for Jeff Carter on the following charges:
Arson – Class A Felony
Fraudulent Insurance Acts – Class D Felony
Negligent Homicide – Class A Misdemeanor
As previously stated, this investigation has been ongoing for several months, with information gathering beginning before I took office January 1st. Michael Blake Campbell’s father, Jim Campbell, had reached out to me and asked my administration to investigate this case. Greene County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division Commander Captain Rhonda Thomas, along with Detective Sergeant Don Crittenden, spent hundreds of man hours meticulously pouring over the original case file and developing more leads and evidence along the way. Their hard work, persistence, and attention to detail are what brought this arrest to fruition. The extradition process is currently in progress.
The probable cause affidavit narrative follows:
On June 14th, 2019 Greene County deputies responded to a 911 call in reference to a home explosion at 7293 Hwy 141 N. in Greene County. A witness on scene called stating that Michael Blake Campbell was in the house when it exploded, and he believed him to be dead. Deputies arrived on scene at approximately 8:26 p.m. and the structure was fully engulfed in flames.
The home had a for sale sign in the yard from Jeff Carter Real Estate. Deputy Lenderman contacted Jeff Carter who stated the residence was vacant. Carter stated that he had bought the house about a month prior and was in the process of renovating it. Carter stated that he had someone look at the residence to put counters in about a week prior and they had realized the wiring had been stripped from the residence.
Michael Blake Campbell was located deceased inside the structure. Cause of death was listed as “smoke and soot inhalation”.
Witness #1 who called 911 was seen at AMMC for burns to his face and arm. The witness stated that he was working for Jeff Carter and had been at the home with Blake Campbell (Jeff’s stepson). The witness smelled of gasoline and stated that he had stepped in gas on the carport after the explosion. A transaction for $50.00 at Jordan’s gas station on 6/14/2019 was located in Michael Blake Campbell’s bank records. Witness #1 later stated that Campbell was sent to the residence to burn it by the stepfather Jeff Carter because the wiring had been stripped and it would cost too much to fix.
Witness #2, the decedent’s wife, was interviewed and stated on the night of the fire that Blake had brought her something to eat about 5 or 6 and that while he was at the residence Jeff Carter called him on the phone. She stated that while Blake was on the phone with Jeff he walked outside. She stated that Witness #1 was in Blake’s truck outside. She stated that Blake told her that Jeff wanted him to burn the house down for him and said something about so he didn’t have to deal with it anymore. She stated “I think if I remember right, he said he would get a couple thousand from Jeff, a thousand or two for doing it, when the insurance money would come through”.
A forensic examination of Witness #1’s phone revealed a text message from Michael Blake Campbell to Witness #1 on the day of the fire. The message stated, “We gotta go take care of some stuff for jeff”. The message was sent at 4:45 p.m. The 911 call reference to the explosion came in at approximately 8:15 p.m.
The crime lab identified a residue of gasoline on a half-pint jar containing a residue of an amber liquid that was recovered from the fire scene. There was no electricity connected at the residence at the time of the fire.
Jeff Carter bought the house on April 6th, 2019 for $25,000. The house burned on June 14th, 2019. The policy limit with the insurance on the property was $80,000. Carter turned in a claim to his insurance company, but refused to provide an examination under oath, so the claim was denied.
As this case remains under investigation at this time, no further information will be released.
- Sheriff Brad Snyder