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Victim tied to punching bag; home invasion, fire probed

South Boston police are searching for two black males who are suspected of breaking into the 800 Marshall Ave. home of 34-year-old Joshua Hollandsworth, robbing him at gunpoint, tying him to a punching bag and setting his two-story woodframe house ablaze.

South Boston Police Capt. B. K. Lovelace confirmed Tuesday the early morning house fire that destroyed Hollandsworth’s home occurred after two masked men, one wielding a handgun, invaded the home around 1 a.m. and stole an undisclosed amount of money.

“We believe the two suspects did set the fire,” Lovelace said.

A neighbor who saw flames coming from the house reported the fire to E-911 dispatch.

Authorities began treating the massive house fire as a crime scene after Cpl. J. C. Berry found Hollandsworth lying on the side of the burning house at 1:10 a.m. He was tied to a heavy boxing punching bag, Lovelace said.

“She dragged him to a safe location away from the fire,” he added.

Police are now seeking the community’s help in identifying the two black male suspects who wore all black clothing.

The first suspect is described as being 6-foot tall and weighing approximately 185 pounds.

The second suspect is 5-foot, 8-inches tall and weighing between 160 to 180 pounds, Lovelace said.

Hollandsworth, owner of the new seafood restaurant on North Main Street — The Happy Oyster on Main, was alone in the house at the time of the fire, according to authorities.

He managed to escape the burning house, but a dog perished in the blaze, authorities said.

Firefighters from Halifax Volunteer Fire Department assisted South Boston Fire Department in extinguishing the flames that gutted the wood frame structure, once home to the late Gov. Bill Tuck who lived there before he became governor.

South Boston Police maintained a presence at the cordoned off house throughout the day Monday, a yellow tape enveloping the crime scene located at the intersection of Vaughan Street.

Investigators began arriving on the scene shortly after 8:30 a.m. and were joined by Virginia State Police and two state arson investigators who worked late into the evening piecing together events at the crime scene.

In charge of the investigation is South Boston Police Detective Randy E. Redd. 

Lovelace said investigators went into the burned out house about 11 a.m. Monday to begin gathering evidence to be sent to the state forensic laboratory for evaluation.

“It all depends on what they find in the house,” Lovelace said when asked how long he expects the investigation to take. He estimated it could be days, weeks or months before it is complete.

Hollandsworth, who was transported to Halifax Regional Hospital by rescue squad in the wee hours of Monday morning, was released later that morning after being treated, according to a hospital spokesperson. 

As the investigation continues, Lovelace said officers are not sure whether the Monday morning fire at 800 Marshall Avenue is related in any way to another fire that occurred several doors up at 813 Marshall Avenue in mid-July. 

Anyone with information about the early Monday morning home invasion and fire on Marshall Avenue is asked to contact Detective Redd at the South Boston Police Department at 434-575-4273 or Crime Line at 434-476-8445.


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