Deadly Hickman Co. house fire investigated as possible arson - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

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Deadly Hickman Co. house fire investigated as possible arson

Posted: Updated: Jan 31, 2014 10:20 PM
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NUNNELLY, TN (WSMV) -

Hickman County authorities are investigating a house fire that killed an elderly couple Friday morning as suspicious.

Firefighters were called about 5:30 a.m. to Dodd Hollow Road, where they found the home fully engulfed in flames.

Sheriff Randal Ward said a K-9 team detected evidence at the scene - including what appears to be accelerant - that led authorities to believe the fire may have been intentionally set.

"Right now we're going to go ahead and investigate it as an arson," Ward said.

The victims of the fire, R.T. and Ruby Rivers, were in their late 80s. RT Rivers was a longtime business owner and preacher while Ruby was a mother to several children.

The fire was so intense, investigators at the scene were initially unable to identify the two bodies, so they were transported to the state medical examiner's office in Nashville for analysis.

Ward said as the investigation went along Friday, officials at the house sensed something very strange.

"What our noses told us, from what we smelled, and what the dog hit, we felt like there might have been an accelerant there," the sheriff said.

In his 35 years in law enforcement, Ward says he's never had a fire with an accelerant that didn't turn out to be an arson. So, as of now, they're now investigating the Rivers' deaths as homicides.

"We're talking with witnesses and people that discovered the fire and back-tracking the days before it happened and all," Ward said.

Members of the Rivers family returned to the home on Monday, searching the rubble for any remaining pictures or memories.

All of them were too emotional to talk on camera, but everyone, including the sheriff, is hoping that any clues pointing to foul play are wrong.

"We're going to go ahead and take the other side of the coin while we're waiting to hear from the lab and the pathologist and maybe, hopefully, the results will show otherwise," Ward said.

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