ISP still needs ‘unfettered, transparent’ conversation with family of girls killed in 2016 Flora house fire

Data pix.

PENDLETON, Ind.-- Indiana State Police (ISP) spoke Wednesday about the deadly 2016 Flora house fire that left four young sisters dead.

The fire took place in the heart of downtown Flora on November 21, 2016. Keyana Davis, 11, Keyara Phillips, 9, Kerriele McDonald, 7, and Kionnie Welch, 5 were trapped inside the home on Columbia Street when it went up in flames. Their mother, Gaylin Rose, made it out.

No arrests have ever been made in connection with the arson.

During the press conference, ISP Superintendent Doug Carter said his office really needs to sit down and speak to the whole family, as well as Rose, about the days leading up to the fire.

He said they have not been invited to do so thus far.

Carter said there are things about the investigation he's not able to publicly speak about, but hopes to be able to some day.

"It's very important that we understand who's been at that house, what the dynamics were of the people who did visit the home, and right now we don't know what those answers are," said Carter.

When asked about the difference in public responses to this case and the case of two murdered girls in Delphi, Carter said the cases are very different.

"It's because we don't have access to the whole family," he said. "We have to sit down and have unfettered, completely transparent conversation with everybody that had access to that home for the weeks, months and days up to that day when those four beautiful girls were killed. That's why.

"There will come a time when we will be able to share more with you. I wish I could share with you today what I know, but I'm not going to."

He reiterated several times that ISP needs complete access to the family.

"They've not offered themselves to sit down with us," he said when asked if they were not cooperating.

When asked if the mother was not speaking with them, Carter replied, "We would love to sit down with the mother and talk with her."

A wrongful death lawsuit filed in Hammond on behalf of Rose, named Josh Ayres, his business partner Troy Helderman, and their company Birch Tree Holdings.

The suit alleges that Rose complained about a lack of working smoke detectors, non-functioning electrical outlets, and non-locking doors in the home before the fire.

The suit also includes a product liability claim against Whirlpool and Sears over a range appliance in the home.

The investigation has been plagued with setbacks. On the one-year anniversary of the fire, ISP said there’s nothing new with the investigation.

Over the past year, the investigation has taken many turns, but yielded few answers. FOX59 exposed inaccuracies in the state fire investigator’s initial report, which stated accelerants were found “all over the house.” In reality, state police said they were only found in one spot.

The state fire investigator was the first to resign. Then the county prosecutor announced his retirement at the end of this year for personal reasons. Flora’s fire chief also resigned.

If you know anything about the fire, you’re encouraged to call police at 1-800-382-4628. Callers may remain anonymous. There is a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Data pix.
Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.