Investigators blame arson for fire that destroyed Hephzibah home

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

February 26, 2007

HEPHZIBAH, Ga.---Fire investigators are looking for an arsonist after three fires were set inside a Hephzibah home early Sunday morning (February 25).

It happened off of Forest Drive, near Brown Drive off of Mike Padgett Highway.

News 12 met with the family as they salvaged what they could from their destroyed home.

Dera Lanier and her three children got the shock of their lives when they came home Sunday afternoon to a home gutted with fire.

Everything inside was lost, including the lives of four precious pets.

The house was gutted from top to bottom by three separate fires set at once.

"This fire was definitely intentionally set," Lt. Neal Brown told News 12.

One fire was set in the kitchen, another in the hallway, and a third in the bedroom of Dera's 17-year-old son.

"It takes an awful evil person to do that," she said.

Dera and her three children were not home at the time, but the family's pets were.

"They're not sick. They're evil," Dera said. "They could've let the animals with four legs outside. At least we would have found them alive."

Fire crews tried to revive one cat on the scene, but it didn't make it. Another dog and cat did survive the initial fire, but in the end, that wasn't enough.

"We had to have them put down this morning...they inhaled too much smoke," Dera said. "They smelt of burnt plastic."

Unbelievably, a few fish also survived the fire and the smoke...but not much else did.

"The little baby pictures you take of them at home...I'll never get them back," Dera said. "And pictures of my father who passed away...I'll never get them back."

Lanier says knowing someone did this intentionally is too much to bear.

"I can't think about that right now. We just got to move on," she said.

But fire investigators are thinking about it, and are serious about catching the ones responsible for the blaze.

"The history of arsonists is they progress onto other things later in life, so we definitely want to try and cut them off as quick as we can," Lt. Brown said.

Fire investigators say they need your help in order to catch whoever is responsible.

Anyone with any information that leads to an arrest can call anonymously, and the reward could be as high as ten thousand dollars.

The fires were started around 2 o'clock in the morning on Sunday, and there are neighbors living close by, but no one seems to have seen anything other than the flames.

Investigators did take some items from the scene and are following up on leads, but as of now there is no suspect.

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