House explosion in Owen County ruled suicide, investigators say

SPENCER, Ind.– Investigators in Owen County ruled a deadly house explosion from last week a suicide, CBS4 has learned.

The Nov. 16 explosion happened in the 4400 block of Newport Drive near Rolling Meadows Golf Course. Crews arrived to find the home destroyed, with debris scattered 200 yards from the home. Authorities identified the deceased as Don Richards, 84. His cause of death was trauma from the explosion’s shockwave, according to the Owen County Coroner’s Office. The coroner’s office identified him through dental records.

4 Fast Facts

  • Investigators rule house explosion in Owen County a suicide
  • A man died in the blast last week
  • Investigators originally ruled the cause of the explosion “undetermined”
  • A gas line valve may have been tampered with

Investigators said a gas line valve may have been tampered with before the explosion, but they initially ruled the official cause “undetermined” due to the extensive amount of damage from the resulting blast.

They’ve since amended that finding, saying they found accelerants in several locations. In addition, the furnace had a missing gas valve and witnesses said Richards planned to blow up his house due to an impending foreclosure. Other witnesses reported seeing a large number of gas cans in the garage.

People who live a mile away from the site of the explosion reported feeling their houses shake when it happened. Damage from the explosion was estimated at $400,000.

Several agencies were involved in the investigation, including the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the Indiana State Fire Marshal, the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, the Owen Valley Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

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