LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A Kentucky teenager has been charged with starting a house fire that killed her grandparents, a relative said Thursday, leaving the grieving family to wonder what events led to the tragedy.
Kentucky State Police said only that a juvenile, whom they didn’t identify, was in custody facing two counts of murder and one count of first-degree arson. But the couple’s son, Rusty Garland, said that it was his 16-year-old niece who had been charged.
The victims, Everett Garland, 64, and his 60-year-old wife, Linda Garland, were in their central Kentucky home when the fire broke out late Wednesday night, authorities said.
Rusty Garland said by telephone Thursday that relatives were stunned.
“She was always a good girl,” he said of the niece. “Everybody’s in shock. They can’t believe something like that would happen.”
Rusty Garland said his parents had custody of his niece. He said she had had problems in school but he wasn’t aware of any friction between his parents and his niece.
“Mom and Dad were trying to raise her,” he added.
State police didn’t divulge a possible motive and said the suspect was being held in a juvenile detention center.
The fire was set inside the one-story home, said state police Trooper Robert Purdy. Investigators were still trying to determine a cause.
“It was intentionally set,” Purdy said. “There was something that transpired prior to that that’s sensitive to the investigation.”
Everett Garland was pronounced dead at the scene near the community of Eubank, about 60 miles south of Lexington in Kentucky’s Lincoln County. His wife died later at a hospital. Autopsies were planned.
Everett Garland was found near the rear door of the home, his wife in their bedroom beside the bed, Lincoln County Coroner Farris Marcum said.
Marcum said the man was attempting to escape. “I guess he got disoriented with smoke inhalation,” the coroner added.
The coroner said the girl living in the home got out and called 911. The girl was taken to a hospital to be checked and was later released, he said.
Rusty Garland, who drives a cattle truck, was on his way home from a run to Tennessee when he was notified that his parent’s home had burned. He lives about a half-mile from his parents.
“Mom and Dad were good people,” he said. “They’d give the shirts off their back for anybody. It’s just a tragic loss.”
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