81-year-old tries to set girlfriend on fire, sets house ablaze

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The suspect’s son — who lives next door — reported that Irvin Riley “IR” Smallwood, 81, tried to set fire to his girlfriend, Barbara Dawn Coker, 35, and was burning down the house. Here, Coweta firefighters work the blaze Wednesday afternoon.

By ELIZABETH RICHARDSON erichardson@newnan.com An 81-year-old Senoia man is charged with arson and aggravated assault after he allegedly attempted to set his 35-year-old live-in girlfriend on fire Wednesday and instead burned his house down. Coweta authorities received a 911 call around 12:40 p.m. Wednesday regarding a domestic incident at 1250 Rockaway Road off Elders Mill Road in the Senoia area, according to Major James Yarbrough of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspect’s son — who lives next door — reported that Irvin Riley “IR” Smallwood, 81, had tried to set fire to his girlfriend, Barbara Dawn Coker, 35, and was burning down the house. Law enforcement officers arrived on the scene and found Smallwood hiding in the woodline near his house, according to Yarbrough. Upon further investigation, authorities determined that Smallwood and Coker had been having a domestic argument. While Coker was in bed asleep, Smallwood doused her with gasoline, Yarbrough said. Coker managed to flee before he lit the fire, and she did not get burned. She was examined by EMS at the scene. The resulting fire gutted the interior of the home. Coweta County Fire Department firefighters were working to contain the blaze. Smallwood is charged with arson and aggravated assault. The investigation continues and authorities confirm that Smallwood will undergo a mental evaluation.

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