No answers yet on deadly house fire
Detection dogs alert on possible accelerant; samples taken to DPS lab
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

April 28, 2006 -- The investigation into a fatal fire Wednesday which resulted in three deaths continues, with state and federal investigators assisting county fire and sheriff's investigators.

Misty Renae "Poo Bear" Neal Burkhart, 26; her mother, Roxann Neal, 46; and Misty's 5-year-old daughter, Brooklyn Renae "Booky-Nator" Edwards are presumed to be the victims who perished in the deadly fire Wednesday morning at the Neal home on County Road 2431.

Officials said no rulings will be made known until the findings by all agencies and results of several tests are in, including positive identification on all three victims.

"This will be a long process that will likely take weeks and weeks," Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum said Friday morning.

"There has definitely been no determination of anything at this point," Hopkins County Fire Investigator Steve Caudle said.

Two trained detection dogs alerted Thursday afternoon on one spot inside the house for what may be have been an accellerant. But investigators won't know what the substance was or if it played a role in the deadly fire.

An accelerant can be any substance which will ignite or burn, from combustible household chemicals and products to fuels. 

Samples from the spot where the canines alerted were taken. Texas Ranger Phillip Kemp, who is assisting Hopkins County Sheriff's Office with the investigation, left Friday morning for Austin to deliver the samples to Texas Department of Public Safety's lab for analysis.

"The preliminary results from the lab should identify the product alerted on," Caudle said.

Investigators said the samples are only one fact in a long list of facts, which will all be pieced together to make the determination.

Arson task force members from the Grapevine division of Tarrant County and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms concluded their work at the fire scene Thursday afternoon, and officers were released from security detail at the site.

Caudle began working Thursday with an investigator from Farm Bureau Insurance, who will add another perspective and resource for a more thorough investigation of the fire.

Investigator Tatum and other sheriff's officers will be questioning family members and other people connected to the family, including neighbors.

Anyone with any information regarding the fire, particularly the time at which it may have started, is urged to contact the Hopkins County Sheriff's Office at 903-438-4040.

Tatum, HCSO Investigator Jace Anglin and Kemp all were in Dallas Thursday morning while medical examiners conducted their initial evaluation of the three victims. Investigators expect to have preliminary autopsy and lab tests back within the week, but said complete results from the autopsy could take up to eight weeks to finish.

Authorities said Misty Burkhart had recently completed Army basic training. She was on leave for two weeks before she was to report to Colorado for duty. She, her husband Charles, her 5-year-old daughter Brooklyn and the Burkharts' son Koalton were all in Como to be near Misty's parents, Tommy Gayle and Roxann "Moma Roxie" Neal. Misty and Brooklyn stayed at the Neal home.

Misty's husband and son, however, were staying at a nearby residence when the fire occurred and were not injured. Tommy Neal was at work when the fire was reported.

One funeral service will be held for all three victims at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at First Baptist Church of Winnsboro. Burial will follow in New Pickton Cemetery. Family visitation will be conducted from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at Beaty Funeral Home in Winnsboro.

Memorials may be made in their names to the building fund at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Pickton, where all three attended and were active in church activities. Send memorials to Tabernacle Baptist Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 123, Pickton, TX 75471.

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