Warrant in deadly fire: father's injuries don't match story | News
TUCKER, GA (WXIA) -- In warrants obtained by 11Alive's Valerie Hoff, fire investigators report the injuries of the only surviving family member in a Tucker home fire don't match his story.
A February 9 blaze killed Kathy Patterson and daughters 12-year-old Kayla and 9-year-old Madelyn. Father Brent Patterson was the sole survivor. The day after the fatal fire, he returned to the home and spoke with reporters.
“This is the only place I can come to be with them,” Patterson said. “This is all I have left, this is it. I don't know what else to do, this is where they are.”
In the application for a search warrant, investigators detail the differences in Patterson's stories.
At the scene on the night of the fire, investigators say Patterson told them the family was upstairs getting ready for bed when he heard a noise downstairs and went to investigate. "He opened the door in order to vent the smoke, because he thought it might help. It was at this time the fire erupted, forcing him outside," the court document reads. He and a neighbor went around to the back of the house and broke a sliding glass door with a shovel, but were not able to get back into the burning home.
Investigators say, several days later, Patterson's story changed. When questioned on February 12, "Mr. Patterson gave a different account of what happened." Instead of saying his family was getting ready for bed, investigators said he told them the family was already asleep. And instead of hearing a sound and investigating, he was awakened by the noise. Investigators say he didn't see any sign of fire and smoke until after he opened the door. "The conflicting statements given by Mr. Patterson could not explain the fire behavior, fire patterns, or the speed of the fire spread. Also, the minor injuries sustained by Mr. Patterson are not consistent with his explanation of his actions that evening in either of his accounts."
The Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office told 11Alive News arson is the logical crime to investigate, but points out there has been no conclusive finding of arson. In a statement issued to 11Alive, the Gwinnett County Fire Department said the investigation is still underway: "Fire Investigators are continuing to look at ALL angles and possibilities in the case as we conduct a complete and thorough investigation. That has not changed. Though we have not publically called the fire an act of arson, doesn’t mean that it is not one of the angles being considered."
The warrant also detailed efforts to determine what medications, if any, the family members had in their systems when they passed away. According to the warrant application, Kathy Patterson took psychiatric medications that made her sleepy and also drank alcohol.Toxicology examinations have been requested on all three family members "in an effort to determine how any medications/ substances they might have been taking would affect their response to the fire."
The warrant also listed journals, paperwork, prescription medicine bottles, photographs, cards and letters, an iPad, and a flash drive as items taken from the burned out home.