Gwinnett County Fire Investigators are searching for Shanel Velma Best, 21. Best is charged with first-degree arson and aggravated assault for allegedly setting a fire in front of a hotel door while four people, including a child, were inside.
Photo: Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services
Photo: Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services

Officials: Woman lit fire outside Gwinnett hotel door in ‘fit of rage’

Gwinnett County Fire Investigators are searching for a woman they say lit a fire in front of a hotel room door that had four people, including  a child, inside.

Shanel Velma Best, 21, has been charged with aggravated assault and first-degree arson - endangering human life. She has not been arrested and investigators do not know her whereabouts.

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Best was staying in a room at the Congress Hotel and Suites on Oakbrook Parkway in Norcross on April 25, investigators say. Best got into an argument with a “female acquaintance” who was also staying in the room around 1 a.m., according to a release. 

After Best left the room, people inside heard her yelling and banging on the door in a “fit of rage,” investigators say. The room occupants then saw orange light through the crack under the door. They opened it to find a small fire burning; they were able to stomp it out before major damage was done, but part of a carpet was scorched. according to the release. 

“Best’s actions were careless and placed multiple people in danger by blocking the guest room door and impeding egress from the third floor,” Gwinnett Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said in a release.

Investigators identified Best as a suspect because police had responded to a different domestic dispute allegedly involving her an hour before the fire was reported. Best had given officers a fake name and left the hotel, investigators say.

Anyone with information about the fire or Best’s whereabouts should contact the Gwinnett Fire Investigations Section at 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804. 

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