ROGERSVILLE — State and county authorities are investigating an apparent murder and arson that occurred at a double-wide mobile home in the Stanley Valley community of Hawkins County on Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities said Christopher Varalli, 478 George Allen Road, was discovered dead in his bathroom after firefighters responded to a fire in the residence shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Police didn’t know Varalli’s exact age but believe he was in his mid-30s.
Varalli had reportedly suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and a fire was intentionally set just outside the bathroom near the back door apparently after he was shot, police said.
The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office was called to Varalli’s residence on a runaway complaint on Monday night.
Deputies returned to Varalli’s residence Tuesday morning on a complaint of an unruly juvenile.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said the 16-year-old boy was arrested at the Varalli residence Tuesday morning and was being held at the Johnson City Juvenile Detention Center at the time of the murder.
Lawson said Varalli’s wife was at work and a smaller child was at school in Surgoinsville at the time of the murder.
Among the first to arrive at the scene was Hawkins County Commissioner Danny Alvis, who is employed at the nearby Stanley Valley Market.
The victim’s residence is located on Alvis’ way home from work.
Shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, Alvis was going home just as a Stanley Valley Volunteer Fire Department truck pulled out in front of him with lights and siren blaring headed toward Varalli’s home.
Alvis, who is a former Stanley Valley fire chief, assisted the lone firefighter who was first to arrive at the scene. Alvis said they met a mail carrier when they arrived. The mail carrier told them he had seen smoke and put out a pile of burning rags just inside the back door.
“We (Alvis and the firefighter) went in and the bathroom door was shut, and it would only push (open) about a foot,” Alvis said. “The victim was laying on the floor, and we tore the bathroom door off backwards so we could try to get some air to him. He was already deceased. I checked. I was going to do CPR, but he was already gone. The EMS got there about that time and they took charge.”
Alvis said he observed a large amount of blood had spilled from Varalli’s abdomen near the belt line. Aside from the victim and the blood, Alvis said he didn’t see anything else suspicious at the residence or any suspicious persons.
Alvis said the fire was set between the outer wall and the bathroom door, which was only about four feet from the back door. He said the fire did substantial damage to the floor but firefighters put it out before it spread throughout the residence.
Varalli was taken to the Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City for an autopsy.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrived on the scene around 4 p.m. and joined the investigation. The state fire marshal was also called to assist.
Alvis said Varalli moved to George Allen Road about a year ago with his wife and small child and was a weekly customer at the Stanley Valley Market.