Apartment fire started in home of Coke thief

Cause of Norcross blaze still being investigated

LAWRENCEVILLE - Fire investigators have determined that a blaze that destroyed 10 apartments Friday originated in the unit that is the listed address for a woman convicted the same day of conspiring to steal trade secrets from The Coca-Cola Co.

Lt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department, could not confirm that Joya Williams lived in apartment 1009 at the Hunter's Pointe apartment complex in Norcross where the fire began, but Williams, who faces 10 years in prison after being convicted by a federal jury for conspiring to steal trade secrets, is listed at that address. After being convicted Friday afternoon, she is free on bond pending sentencing.

Rutledge said Saturday that the apartment's occupant was home at the time of the fire and escaped without injury.

Rutledge said the exact origin and cause of the fire are still undetermined, but that Gwinnett fire investigators were working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"There's still no word on the cause of the fire," he said. "When and how it started is still being investigated."

Rutledge said investigators have been questioning many of the residents in the building, including the resident who lived in apartment 1009.

The fire began at 1:48 p.m., a little more than an hour after the guilty verdict was read against Williams in federal court, and was under control by 4:08 p.m, Rutledge said. It displaced 34 adults and nine children. No one was injured in the blaze, but medics treated a woman who was hysterical at the scene.

Four apartments suffered heavy damage from the fire and six others had significant smoke, heat and water damage, Rutledge said. One of the damaged units was vacant.

Residents in 10 adjacent units were also displaced because utilities to the building were shut off, Rutledge said.

- Staff writer Heather Darenberg contributed to this article.