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Williford Sentenced To 30+ Years for Setting Fatal Fire at Valle Landing in Valle Crucis

By Jesse Wood

Benjamin Williford was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for setting the fatal fire at the Valle Landing mixed-use shopping center in Valle Crucis on the morning of August 12.

Williford pled guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree arson, according to WSOC-TV. Court documents revealed that Williford burnt down the building because someone at one of the businesses in Valle Landing owed Williford money.

After an investigation, Williford was arrested at the Harrah Cherokee Casino, where he was found playing poker inside, in late August.

The fire killed Macie Dove Pietrowickz and severely injured another. In addition to the death, injuries and the fact that families residing upstairs were left homeless, local businesses operating in the shopping center were also affected.

Some of the online fundraisers for those affected are still live.

See release from District Attorney’s Office below.

Williford Convicted of Murder and Arson

On March 21, Benjamin Williford was sentenced on one count of Second Degree Murder, one count of First Degree Arson, three counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury, and three drug related felonies. 

In the early morning hours of August 12, 2016, fire fighters, Sheriff’s Deputies, and other first responders arrived at the Valle Landing complex to find the building fully engulfed in flames.  Macie Dove Pietrowicz, a resident of Valle Landing was found dead in the rubble after fire suppression efforts ceased.  Macie’s husband Mark Pietrowicz, had suffered third degree burns over much of his body, as well as broken bones, and was airlifted from the scene. 

Nicola and Andreas Nagy suffered fractured vertebra and other injuries that came as a result of jumping from the roof of the building to escape the blaze.  The building itself was a total loss.  Subsequent investigation revealed that Benjamin Williford had set the fire because of an outstanding debt owed to him by an employee of one of the shops housed on the first floor of Valle Landing.

Resident Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne sentenced Williford to serve a minimum of 30 years and a maximum of 38 years in prison.  Judge Horne also ordered that Williford pay $534,900.41 in restitution to the victim’s families.

“This is such an incredibly sad case for the victims and their families,” District Attorney Seth Banks said in a statement. “Over the last eight months, the Pietrowicz, Dove, and Nagy families have served as an inspiration to those of us who have worked on this case.  They have exhibited incredible strength in the face of an inconceivable tragedy.  I would like to thank the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the Watauga County Fire Marshal’s Office, the Boone Fire Department, and Assistant District Attorney Matt Rupp for the countless hours that were spent investigating and prosecuting this case.  It was through their hard work and dedication that we were able to bring Benjamin Williford to justice for this unspeakable act.”