It may be weeks before authorities have any answers regarding a house fire on Dec. 11, 2013, took the lives of Ashton and Roger Garrison, ages 1 and 3, respectively.
The fire in the 9600 block of Shach Creek Road was reported to the Orrick Fire Department around 11:30 a.m. At the time, the boys’ father, Randy Garrison, claimed he was sound asleep in his bedroom when he awoke to the voices of his sons screaming out.
At the time of the incident Garrison told authorities that he had returned home from a 24-hour work shift around 6 a.m., at which time the children and their mother, Tamara Willis, were in the living room. Garrison said he went straight to bed and when he woke up the house was fully engulfed in flames; at that time he attempted to gain access to the boys’ room but was unsuccessful. The same day as the fire, in an interview with several news stations Garrison stated that he was unable to open the door due to what he described as a bungee cord, or something similar, holding the door shut. Garrison said he then ran out the back door of the family home, where he tried to rip the exterior off of the house and punch his way into the boys’ bedroom. His attempts were futile and soon he was rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for flash burns and blisters, but checked himself out and returned to his destroyed home in Orrick.
Garrison also told authorities that when he awoke, the children’s mother was not at home. Willis did return to the scene later that evening and was clearly distraught. The couple’s stories began to differ when Willis’ mother, Marjorie Long, explained to authorities that her daughter had stated that she woke Garrison prior to leaving the house to run errands and that he was awake and “smoking a cigarette” when she left. Long, in defense of her daughter, raised questions about Garrison’s claim of the bungee cord holding the boys’ door shut and said that firemen searching in the living room had found the children there.
Now, nearly a month later, investigators still are not releasing information about the cause of the fire. At first the Ray County Sherriff’s Department investigated the incident but within days the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri State Fire Marshal and the Ray County Coroner’s office were working hand in hand to bring closure to the case.
According to Sgt. Collin Stosberg of the MSHP, the investigation is still underway and they are waiting on toxicology reports from autopsies on both boys. “This is a very lengthy process,” he said. “We are all working together and once we have all of our information together we will release that to the media. As tragic as the situation was, it is our job to determine the cause of the fire and from an investigative standpoint we want to document everything correctly, which is what our team is working on.”
Stosberg said that it could be several more weeks or longer if there is probable cause to make an arrest or if any new information is available to close the case. “The toxicology results take a long time and there was a lot of evidence gathered from the scene. It could take months to get the results that we are looking for,” he added.
By Jae Juarez • firstname.lastname@example.org