Best Man Nabbed In Honeymoon Fire

The charred remains of the Hampton, Va., home of Shannon Gear and her husband Anthony Williams, which police say was torched 4-26-05 while the two were in Mexico on their honeymoon. The best man, Joseph Overton, 27, of Hampton was arrested the next day and charged with setting the fire. AP

Last Saturday, Shannon Gear and Anthony Williams were floating on a carpet of good wishes, as some 200 guests - including her Virginia state legislator father - toasted them at their wedding.

Then they left for a honeymoon in Mexico, to begin their new life as a married couple.

It's already turned out to be more of an adventure than they most likely expected.

Authorities say the home the two shared in Hampton, Virginia, was set on fire Tuesday night - while they were still in Mexico - and has been reduced to mostly charred rubble.

Wednesday, police arrested the best man from their wedding and charged him with setting the blaze.

Fire Marshal Rick Rickett says Joseph Overton, 27, of Hampton, is charged with burning and destroying a dwelling and manufacturing and use of an explosive device.

Rickett would not say what the motive was, but said it was not racially driven. The bride's father -Thomas Gear, a GOP delegate to the Virginia State Assembly - had feared the blaze could have been a hate crime.

Shannon Gear, 32, is white, and her new husband, Anthony Williams, is black. Rickett says Overton also is black.

Authorities say Overton was arrested at the fire marshal's office after he was asked to appear there to answer some questions about clues found at the scene.

The couple's home is located in Hampton's Phoebus section, an integrated area with a mix of middle income and lower-middle income homes.

Neighbor Helena Cooper said she was awakened by firefighters banging on her door Tuesday at 12:30 a.m.

"It was just lighting up my whole front of my house," said Cooper, whose home also suffered damages.

The Daily Press of Newport News reported Wednesday that fire investigators discovered a beer bottle containing a wick and a cigarette butt at the scene.

  • Francie Grace

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