Three arrested in alleged plot to set a Pearl River County home ablaze

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Three suspects are in custody after the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department, in combination with the state fire marshal’s office, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Lamar County Swat Team, averted an alleged attempt to intentionally set a home on fire. 

Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis with the Mississippi Fire Marshal’s Office, said that through the joint effort the team of investigators were able to thwart a plan to set the home of a Pearl River County family on fire.

Davis said the operation also saved the life of the man who was attempting to set the fire because his method could have caused an explosion.

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Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said the case began with a community tip that 54-year-old Don Osbourn of 3624 Highway 43 N., enlisted the help of two men to burn the unidentified home down on Oct. 11.

Investigators with the department contacted the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Lamar County SWAT team, who sent over special response teams to work with local investigators.

The personnel devised a plan and staged up in the woods near the home the night the arson was planned to take place, Allison said. The team staged up at the house just before dark, and waited until they saw movement outside, which was just before 8 that night. At that time the suspect emerged from a shed near the home.

Allison said it appears as though the suspect knew when the family would leave the home to attend church, and waited for that opportunity to emerge from the shed. 

Allison said the suspect, later identified as 43-year-old Mikell Milling, of 54019 Highway 433, Slidell, La., was seen taking items out of a shed at the home and placing them on the ground near the home while wearing a gorilla mask with long hair because he was aware of surveillance cameras in the area, Allison said.

Milling then set up a ladder, climbed to the roof, kicked a vent pipe off the roof and began pouring flammable liquids into that point of the attic, Allison said.

That is when the emergency response team moved in and took Milling into custody without further incident, Allison said.

Investigation into the incident determined that Osbourn allegedly hired Milling to burn the home, and that 43-year-old Joseph Gilley of 43301 Gator Lane, Slidell, was involved in the plot, Allison said.

Osbourn was arrested later that same night, while a warrant was issued for Gilley. Allison said Gilley was picked up Friday in St. Tammany Parish on that warrant.

Osbourn and Milling were arrested for conspiracy to commit arson and attempted first-degree arson, Allison said.

Gilley is being held at the St. Tammany Parish jail on a warrant for conspiracy to commit arson and attempted first-degree arson.

Davis said the operation not only averted an act of arson, but could have saved Milling’s life. Allison said the fumes building up in the attic could have caused an explosion that would have resulted in Milling being injured.

Volunteer firefighters with the Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department were staged at the scene in case a fire did occur.

Davis and Allison both praised the keen planning and work of everyone involved in averting a potential disaster.

As for a motive, Chief Investigator Marc Ogden said it is currently under investigation, but he did say it’s not suspected to be insurance fraud since the residents of the home were unaware of the arson attempt.