Investigators continue search for cause of fatal Mooresville fire

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – Local, state and federal investigators are still looking into the cause of a fire at the home of a married couple who died in Mooresville.

The fire broke out Monday afternoon at a home on East High Street, near the South Clay Street intersection.

The Morgan County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as 79-year-old Mary Featherston and 84-year-old Donald Featherston. Officials say Mary died at her home. Donald was later pronounced dead at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis.

“They loved us dearly,” said the Featherstons’ grandson, Christopher Gilkeson. “They helped us out every time we needed something. They were right there every second, every minute of the day.”

Gilkeson said it was difficult to look at what remained of his grandparents' home. He said the Featherstons lived in the house for more than 50 years.

“This was our safe haven,” he said. “For the first generation, second generation, even third generation of our family, this was our safe haven. This is where we’d go when we didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

The Morgan County Major Crimes Task Force, State Fire Marshals Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent Tuesday gathering evidence at the home, looking for clues about the cause of the fire. Morgan County Sheriff Rich Myers said investigators could not yet call the fire accidental, and possible foul play could not be ruled out.

“We want to start out with the worst case scenario possible, and if we find out the evidence is not pointing us that way, we downsize and come to that conclusion,” Myers said. “If the evidence points us a different way, we’re going to follow that and keep with what we got.”

Investigators used a device to gather images for 3D graphics that map of the interior of the home. The state fire marshal’s K9 arson investigator, a black lab named Misty, spent part of the day going through various rooms in the house.

“These dogs are trained to look for accelerants,” Myers said. “What accelerants exactly, I can’t tell you. But that is their forte, to sniff out different accelerants that would be utilized in an arson case.”

Witnesses told police that Indianapolis Power & Light crew members were working on power lines nearby when they saw the flames Monday afternoon. The IPL crew members ran to the home and kicked down the door to help people get out.

Witnesses also told police they saw several people run from the home after the fire started. However, Myers said Tuesday those people are believed to be other witnesses who tried to help rescue those inside the burning home but had to back away from the heat of the flames.

“The two victims inside here were actually living in the house,” Myers said. “And if there's other folks living inside there, that hasn’t been established yet. That’s still under investigation on who, if more people lived inside there.”

Myers did confirm no 911 calls came from the house, and no working smoke detectors were found inside.

Investigators could still be seen sifting through the burned remains of the house late Tuesday afternoon.

Autopsies for Mary and Donald were performed Wednesday morning, but the autopsy report and coroner's report have been sealed at the request of the Morgan County Prosecutor's Office.

"This was done to protect the integrity of the investigation, which is just at the beginning stages," said Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega. "It is premature to comment or speculate as to whether the investigation will lead to the filing of criminal charges."

Morgan County Coroner Annette Rohlman says the cause and manner of their deaths are being listed as "pending" at this time.

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