Entries in House Fire (7)


Tennessee Children Missing After House Fire Kills Step-Grandparents

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(UNIONVILLE, Tenn.) -- Investigators in Tennessee are searching for two children after discovering that their bodies were not at the scene of a deadly house fire as earlier believed.

Police initially thought Chloie Leverette, 9, and her brother, Gage Daniel, 7, had been killed in a house fire Sunday in Unionville, Tenn., about 40 miles southeast of Nashville, along with their step-grandparents.

But after investigators failed to recover their bodies, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) issued endangered children alerts.

"The fact that we don't have sufficient evidence from fire investigators right now to positively conclude that they died in this fire makes us want to make sure that they are not somewhere else," TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said Wednesday.

Cadaver sniffing dogs combed through the house that belonged to Leon and Molly McClaran on Wednesday as investigators used infrared cameras attached to helicopters to scour the scene.

Fire officials say they've recovered the bodies of Leon McClaran Sr., 72, and his 70-year-old wife, Molly, inside the home, but not the bodies of the children.

"If we just had ashes, their little bodies, you know, but we don't have anything," Mary Lamb, the sister of Molly McClaran, said.

The children were reportedly last seen near the home around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, about three hours before the fire began.  Investigators initially believed that all four family members were asleep when the flames engulfed the home.

"Their mother has been spoken to, she does not have the children," Helm said.  "There are other family members that we are looking to speak with today."

As detectives try to piece together what happened to Chloie and her brother, their family is enduring a waiting game.

"We will wait and pray," said Lamb.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Christmas Day Tragedy: Father Speaks of Grief, Launches Fund

Matthew Badger(NEW YORK) -- The father of Lily, Sarah and Grace Badger, the three girls who died last year in a Christmas Day fire in their Connecticut home, has spoken publicly for the first time of his grief, his daughters and his glimmers of something positive coming from their deaths by drawing attention to a new fund he has launched in their memory.

The nation awoke to the news on Dec. 25 that three young girls had been killed along with their grandparents in their Stamford home. Investigators say hot fireplace embers -- cleaned out of the fireplace because the girls worried about Santa, and discarded in the back of the house -- sparked the blaze.

"There probably has not been a worse Christmas Day in the city of Stamford," Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said.

The girls' mother, advertising executive Madonna Badger, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, the contractor on the house, were the only survivors. Madonna Badger is said still to be in deep isolated mourning.

Matthew Badger, the father of the three girls, has decided to turn the grief from his loss into something positive, and has launched the Lily, Sarah Grace Fund, which will offer money to elementary school teachers who incorporate the use of art -- a passion his daughters shared -- into their teaching. He hopes to draw attention to what will become a living monument to his girls.

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[ Click here to learn more about the Lily, Sarah Grace Fund. ]

Speaking publicly for the first time since their deaths, Badger recalled his last days with 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Gracie, and discussed his feelings at the time of the tragedy.

"I was with them for an entire week in my apartment," Badger said, smiling when he thinks back. "It was dancing. We had our own Christmas tree and that photograph was when we had opened our presents they were all very happy."

Badger said he often studies a snapshot from that final day with Lily, Sarah and Gracie, a day meant to be just one of so many more. He said that after the fire, he struggled to understand why this could happen to his girls.

"It was very difficult to see … Why did this happen? I mean, it doesn't make any sense. And I'd just seen them the day before," Badger told ABC News. "The experience … of memories about their lives has been one of … tears. And every time I open up my computer and look at pictures of them, I am moved."

In the interview with ABC's Claire Shipman for Good Morning America, Badger discussed how he has channeled his grief and memories of his girls into something tangible for others.

"It's really hard," he said. "People treat their grief in different ways. Either they head straight into the wind [or] some people hide behind a rock.

"I had a very hard time making sense of what life was," he continued. "The instinct of a father for me was that I needed to love my children … and that love I channeled into the creation of the Lily Sarah Grace Fund. I need to try and make them have made a mark on the planet, and not have just died in vain."

Badger said he was especially inspired by New York public school teacher Amie Schindel, who sent his daughter, Gracie, skipping to school each day. Schindel told ABC News of her fond memories of the girl.

"I remember having her like it was yesterday. She just kind of shined," Schindel said.

Badger enlisted the help of kindred spirit Charles Best, whose innovative program,, allows people to give money directly to schools.

"Many of the teacher requests are about incorporating art into science, or into math, or into English, and really making art a part of everybody's education," Best says.

Badger hopes that through the fund he is able to help others, but also keep his daughters' memory alive.

"Ultimately, [my] healing will be when [I] walk into a classroom in the fall, and see one of those classes that is being funded by this monument that I've created for my children", he said.

"And if we are able to do that, than Lily, Sarah and Grace have done it. They've done it. It's beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CPS Worker Pleaded for Cops to Come Before Powell Blew Up House

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(GRAHAM, Wash.) -- Moments before Josh Powell ignited a gas-fueled explosion at his home, killing himself and his two children, a locked-out child services worker pleaded with a 911 operator to get police to the home because she feared for the two boys' lives.

Elizabeth Griffin-Hall, who had brought the boys to Powell's home for a supervised visit, called 911 after she said the man let the two boys into the house but slammed the door in her face.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before -- one of these supervised visits.  I'm really shocked," she said in the 911 call, one of seven released Tuesday evening.  "I can hear the kids crying but he still wouldn't let me in."

She told the 911 operator she wanted to move her car out of the driveway because she smelled gas coming from the house, and then asked for police to be sent to the home.  But the 911 operator said officers only get sent to life-threatening situations.

"This could be life-threatening," she said.  "He went to court on Wednesday and he didn't get his kids back.  I'm afraid for their lives."

Moments later, with Powell's house engulfed in flames, she called back and told a 911 operator she believed he intentionally blew up the house, killing himself and his children.

That same day, Powell's distraught sister, Alina Powell, called 911 to say she was receiving "weird" messages from her brother via email and voicemail that made her too "terrified to drive over there" herself.

"I'm not afraid of him," she told the emergency operator through sobs.  "He's never hurt me.  I'm afraid of seeing something I don't want to see."

The deadly house explosion likely exceeded even her worst fears.

"People are saying there's not somebody here," Griffin-Hall said in another 911 call after the explosion, "but I was just there, and there is somebody here.  There's two little boys in the house and they're 5 and 7, and there's an adult man, and he has supervised visits, and he blew up the house and the kids."

When the 911 operator asked her if she believed he did it "intentionally," she answered, "Yes."

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Police had called Josh Powell a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, Susan Powell, who he claimed went missing from their Utah home after he and his then 2- and 4-year-old sons went on a midnight camping trip in December 2009.

He was never arrested or charged, but he lost custody of his sons after his father, Steven Powell, was arrested in September and charged with 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of child pornography.  The pornographic images were kept in the home the two men shared with Josh and Susan Powell's boys.

At a custody hearing last week, a judge said Josh Powell would have to undergo a psychosexual exam before he could get his kids back.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Missing Utah Mom's Husband Kills Self, Kids in Explosion

KOMO/ABC News(SEATTLE) -- Josh Powell, the husband of missing Utah mother Susan Powell, set off an explosion at his Washington home Sunday that killed himself and his two sons, who were there for a supervised visit, police said.

"We believe that he killed his kids and himself," Pierce County, Wash., Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Ed Troyer said.

Graham, Wash., Deputy Chief Gary Franz told ABC News that a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker had just dropped off Powell's two sons at the house for a supervised visit.  Powell took his two sons inside the house and then locked the CPS worker out.

"The children were just right in front of her as she was walking up to the door," Child Protective Services spokeswoman Sherry Hill said.  "They went into the house and Josh shut the door right in front of her and locked it."

The CPS worker smelled gas, stepped away and the house exploded.  The case worker was not physically harmed.

"He grabbed the kids, locked her out of the house, and immediately the house went up in flames, very quickly, very big, so we believe that Josh Powell intentionally set this fire," Troyer said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene and found the three bodies.  Police are awaiting verification from the Medical Examiner's Office, but said they believe the bodies are those of Josh Powell and his two sons.

Troyer told ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle that emails Powell sent to authorities seemed to confirm that Powell planned the explosion.  Troyer did not elaborate on the contents of the emails.

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Josh Powell was the only named person of interest in Susan Powell's 2009 disappearance, but he had not been charged. The couple's two sons were placed in custody of Susan Powell's parents in 2011 after Josh Powell's father, Steve Powell, was arrested on charges of voyeurism and child pornography.

At a hearing Wednesday, a statement from the West Valley City, Utah, police noted that information and images were found on Josh Powell's computer that, "specifically related to their children's welfare," according to ABC News affiliate KTVX-TV in Salt Lake City.

The police did not specify what the information was, but Judge Kathryn J. Nelson ruled that because of that information, Josh Powell would not be allowed to have his children back until he submitted to a psychosexual evaluation and a polygraph test, the report said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mom Who Lost Kids, Parents in Christmas Fire Attempted Suicide: Report

John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Madonna Badger, the New York woman who lost her three daughters and parents in a tragic Connecticut Christmas fire, attempted suicide last week.

Badger, 47, was reportedly hospitalized after hurting herself in an attempt to kill herself, the New York Daily News reported.

"She is okay...She is out [of the hospital] and somewhere safe," a relative told the paper. "It's just terrible -- nobody could really hold up well under the circumstances."

One person close to Badger would not confirm the report, saying that the matter was very personal and difficult to discuss due to the circumstances, but also declined to deny the report.

The Stamford, Conn., fire in the early hours of Dec. 25 claimed the lives of Badger's parents Lomer and Pauline Johnson, and her three daughters Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah. Badger and her friend Michael Borcina were the only survivors.

The fire was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to it, fire officials said. The embers were reportedly removed because the girls were afraid they would burn Santa Claus as he came down the chimney.

Though firefighters, Badger, Borcina and the grandparents all tried to save the little girls, they were unable to make it through walls of fire that kept pushing them back.

Badger is a well-known fashion advertising executive in New York who has worked on Calvin Klein campaigns. The fire happened at her $1.7 million Victorian home in Stamford that was being renovated by her boyfriend Borcina.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Connecticut Christmas Fire: Fireplace Embers Caused Blaze

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(STAMFORD, Conn.) -- The Christmas morning fire at a Connecticut home that killed three girls and their grandparents was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to the mud room, fire officials said Tuesday.

It is unclear whether there were smoke alarms in the house, which was in the middle of an extensive renovation.

The fire began sometime after 3 a.m. while the occupants of the house were asleep.

"The fire entered the house quickly and spread through the first floor and up," Stamford Chief Fire Marshal Barry Callahan told reporters at a news conference.

The fire quickly engulfed the home and neighbors called 911 at 4:52 a.m. to report the fire. The fire department responded within six minutes, but was unable to rescue the five people trapped in the house.

Lomer Johnson, his wife Pauline Johnson and their three granddaughters, Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were killed in the fire. The couple's daughter Madonna Badger, the mother of the girls, survived along with her friend and contractor Michael Borcina.


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Alleged Sex Criminal Missing After Gunshots Erupt From House Fire

Giorgio Fochesato/Vetta/Getty Images(WASHOUGAL, Wash.) -- Police are trying to determine whether a Washougal, Wash., man who was supposed to turn himself in to face sex crimes charges, died in a fire that consumed his home and killed at least two people, or if he escaped in the hail of gunfire that greeted firefighters and police who came to put out the blaze.

The house’s resident, Steven D. Stanbary, 47, was investigated for multiple sexual crimes. On Dec. 6, Washougal detectives gave Stanbary two days to turn himself in, through an arrangement with his attorney.

But on Dec. 7, around 8:00 a.m., Stanbary’s house caught fire.

“As two citizens attempted to see if the residence was occupied and were knocking on the door and window, they were able to see a male inside who told them to get away and then started shooting a gun,” police said.

A police officer was parked in front of the residence, but his car was immediately struck by at least five bullets. The officer drove several hundred feet away, got out of his car and sought cover.

Bullet casings were outside Steven Stanbary's residence, which burned a day before he was to turn himself in to police in Washougal, Wash.

Investigators found two charred bodies inside the burned home, but identifying them will take several weeks. A dog that died as a result of a gunshot wound was also discovered.

Police said the case was being investigated as a murder-suicide.

“Investigators believe strongly that Steve Stanbary is the suspect and that his remains have likely been recovered…based upon personal effects and identifying items found in proximity to remains located with the ruins of the residence,” said Sgt. Kevin Allais.

Police also have several videos taken from smart phones and digital cameras that lead them to believe the remains found are those of Stanbary.

Stanbary’s wife, Leona M. Bolton, and her identical twin sister, Mona K. Daugherty, who are both unaccounted for, also lived at the residence, which police say will complicate the identifications. Stanbary is also still unaccounted for.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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