Murder, arson suspect arrested

Murder, arson suspect arrestedBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Emergency personnel responded to a house fire Tuesday morning in the 500 block of Cottonwood Avenue – a scene that was later determined to be one of suspected arson and murder.

Personnel from the Kern County Fire and Ridgecrest Police Departments arrived just after 10 a.m. to a single-family residence with flames and heavy smoke billowing from multiple sides of the structure according to releases from both departments.

Firefighters noticed a car in the driveway and were told there were possibly people still inside the home. Firefighters reportedly advanced a fire hose into the home to fight back the fire while searching for occupants when they discovered a deceased female. Her identity had not been released at press time.

According to an RPD release, police, the KCFD Arson Unit and the Kern County Coroner’s Office together determined the victim was a victim of a homicide before the residence caught fire. The investigation led the authorities to George Smith Jr., 57, as the primary suspect.

Smith was later located. Officers attempted a traffic stop and Smith reportedly attempted to evade arrest. He was ultimately apprehended in the 900 block of South China Lake Boulevard and arrested without further incident.

Smith was booked in the Bakersfield Central Receiving Facility and is facing felony charges of first-degree murder, arson and reckless evading of a peace officer.

His felony arraignment was Thursday, July 2 at 3 p.m. in Bakersfield. More details were not available at press time.

Other responding agencies included China Lake Fire Department and Hall Ambulance.

Pictured: Kern County and China Lake firefighters respond to the blaze on Cottonwood Avenue that claimed a life. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-07-03