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Arson confirmed in suspicious fire

Staff writer

“I know the rumor mill has been in overdrive this weekend,” Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke said Monday morning. “But everyone needs to know that no arrest has been made in conjunction with the fire Friday that destroyed a pickup and a passenger car.

“The investigation is ongoing,” he added. “We can confirm several things, but the incident is still under investigation. I cannot make any further comment about the investigation.”

Peabody Police officers and fire fighters responded just before 1 a.m. Friday to a fire at 707 N. Locust St. in Peabody, the residence of Peabody Police Officer Jeremy Miller. Two vehicles were ablaze and the fire had spread to the grass in the yard and an empty lot next door.

Miller, his wife, and young daughter were asleep in the house when the fire broke out. Although the vehicles were parked fairly close to the house, the fire did not damage the home and no one was injured.

A third vehicle on the property sustained minor damage.

The fire destroyed a Chevrolet S-10 pickup that belonged to Miller. A 1992 two-door Chevrolet sedan also burned. It belonged to Miller’s wife’s grandmother, who died the day before.

The third vehicle, a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, belongs to the city of Peabody. It was damaged in an attempt to set it on fire also.

“It has been confirmed that the truck and car belonging to the Miller family were totally destroyed by fire,” Burke said. “And it is confirmed that the fire was arson.

“As for the police car, it is confirmed that fire caused the damage the cruiser sustained and the fire was arson.”

The investigation is a joint effort between the Peabody Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department, the State Fire Marshal, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

“When a crime victim has a government or law enforcement connection, the investigative agencies move up a notch to keep the victim agency from investigating the criminal activity,” Burke said. “In this case since the city of Peabody and an employee of the city are the victims, the bulk of the investigation moves to the sheriff’s department, the state fire marshal, and the KBI.”

Burke also noted this incident is the third in a series of suspicious fires in the city in a short time.

“The state fire marshal has been in on the investigation of all three fires,” he said.

On Jan. 30, a barn at 311 Maple caught fire just before dawn and burned to the ground. While this fire was suspicious in nature, officials are not calling it arson, according to Burke.

The interior of a car belonging to Stephanie Rempel of rural Peabody was soaked in a flammable liquid Feb. 20. Someone attempted to set fire to the car, but failed.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fires. Anyone with information may call Kansas Crime Stoppers at (800)-222-8477, Kansas Arson Hot line at (800)-572-7463, Peabody Police Department at (620)-983-2133, or Marion County Sheriff’s Department at (620)-382-2144.

Last modified March 11, 2010

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