FOWLER, Ind. — When firefighters responded to a home in Fowler, Ind. they found a man dead, but it is not the fire that got to him first.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the case is providing additional insight into what caused Daniel Riegle’s death.
We previously reported that state police arrested two men in connection with a deadly house fire. But the court documents indicate the man was dead before the first flame was ignited.
Riegle was found inside the home in the 100 block of North Polk Street, dressed as if to go to work. The documents state a pan was still on the stove, filled with liquid for tea. A first responder pulled Riegle from the home, where he was pronounced dead. He was severely burned, and the document states one of the responders noticed a blood splatter on the wall near where he was located.
During Riegle’s autopsy, the document states no soot was found in his esophagus or lungs, indicating he was dead before the fire. The autopsy also revealed a single projectile in Riegle’s neck. The coroner determined Riegle died of a single gunshot wound to his neck.
A canine trained to detect the presence of ignitable liquids indicated at several locations of the home, including a metal can of the type used to hold lighter fluid or other flammable liquids near Riegle’s body. While the State Fire Marshal’s office considers the indications presumptive, they sent the samples for confirmatory testing.
The Fowler police Department began investigating and developed Rhett Martin as a suspect. The document states Martin told officers he was home all night the night of the fire, and that he didn’t even know where Riegle lived.
Security footage, however, conflicted with Martin’s story. The court document states that several security cameras along the route from Martin’s house to Riegle’s house showed a car similar to Martin’s in the hours leading up to the fire.
When police brought these photos up to Martin, the document states he adamantly denied the vehicle was his, and that there was another vehicle in town that looked like his.
While his roommate, Duane Muse, initially went along with the story, the document states he eventually told police that Martin woke him up around 2:45 the morning of the fire and asked him to take him somewhere. Muse said Martin was going to Riegle’s home with the intent to rob him. While the document states Muse said in an earlier interview that he had never been there before the morning of the fire, he later said they went to Riegle’s home the night before, but just missed him.
Once at the home, the document states Muse said he stood on lookout while Martin went to Riegle’s front door. While at the front door, Muse told police that Martin unscrewed the lightbulb from the porch while holding mace in his other hand. Muse saw Martin bring his hand that he unscrewed the light with back into his pocket, where the document states Muse thought it was possible that Martin had a handgun.
When Riegle opened the door, the document states Muse saw Martin and Riegle get into a tussle and he heard a pop go off. Muse ran back to Martin’s car and waited for Martin to get back. When he did, the document states Martin told Muse that the mace did not work, so he shot him instead. Muse later told officers that Martin said he was going to take care of it.
The document states Martin told Muse to drive Riegle’s car away from the residence. After dropping the vehicle off, the document states Muse got back into Martin’s car and they returned to their house.
Back at the house, the document states Muse told officers that Martin got into his box truck to grab what Muse assumed was some sort of accelerant as Martin previously asked to use the accelerant in his workshop but Muse told him there was not much left.
The documents state Martin told Muse that he put accelerant near the front door and squirted the rest around the living room, leaving the can by the front door.
The canine that searched Ringle’s home also searched Muse and Martin’s home. During this search, the dog indicated on clothing items, a backpack and a blue tote. The document states the handler indicated the dog may have alerted to the oil used to clean guns by the blue tote. The document states Muse told police that he had been siphoning gas from the box truck, which is why the dog may have indicated on items on the tote next to his bed.
A cadaver dog indicated on several items including trash, a bathroom sink, clothing items and the tote. The document states this indicates the possible presence of blood. Muse did not have an explanation for this.
While the probable cause affidavit did not specify formal charges, Muse and Martin were booked into the Benton County Jail on preliminary charges of murder and arson.