Remains found in the rubble believed to be those of Charles John Landrum, age 68
The State Police opened an investigation into a house fire which appears to have claimed the life of a well-thought-of and well-respected resident of Breathitt County, Kentucky. The newspaper should point out an exact cause of death for Charles John Landrum, the deceased, is speculative. Without an autopsy, we may never know for sure.
The house was located on Highway 476 and had a postal address of 9820. Information provided the newspaper indicates Mr. Landrum was the occupant at the time of the fire.
We spoke yesterday with a local law enforcement agent who told us the matter has been handed over to the Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) for investigation. We were additionally told the subject fire is being investigated for arson.
We were not told who is the target of the investigation. We don’t have any reason, nor should any of you reading this, to conclude that Mr. Landrum is a suspect.
We reached out to a law enforcement officer from a neighboring community who agreed to speak with us provided his identity wasn’t disclosed within the article. He told the Times-Voice the following:
“It is standard to open arson investigations when the cause of death can be attributed to a fire. The body should go for an autopsy. As long as the cause of death is determined to be fire related (ie smoke in lungs) then it will be ruled accidental. Should the autopsy reveal fowl play, a murder investigation will then be opened by a criminal detective and the arson investigator will simply need to identify the cause of the fire.”
Kentucky law recognizes three degrees of arson. You may already think you know what constitutes the offense of arson, but arson is a defined term under Kentucky law.
Our online research indicates that, under one of the three existing grades of offense (KRS § 513.020), a person is guilty of arson if he or she starts a fire or causes an explosion with the intent to destroy or damage a building which is either inhabited or occupied or another person sustains serious physical injury as a result. We didn’t look up the statutory definition of “serious physical injury” but assume “death” would come within its parameters.
The newspaper reached out to one of Mr. Landrum’s living issue, Helen Landrum Fugate. Ms. Fugate confirmed to the Times-Voice she had been notified of her father’s passing by the Coroner. She reported being left “in the dark” about the remaining facts and circumstances surrounding the investigation.
The newspaper also contacted, via email, the KSP ( Post 13) . We were led to believe that post to be the one assigned to this open investigation.
As of the date of running this story, our request for information has gone unanswered. It isn’t KSP’s normal practice to respond to inquiries concerning open investigations.
This is a continuing and developing story. We will update this information as new information is made available.