4 people die in a mobile home fire in Montana after two men burned an apron in the kitchen while the victims slept following a house party.
Preliminary autopsy results showed all four victims died of smoke inhalation, authorities said. Three bodies were found in bedrooms and one in the mobile home’s dining room.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder identified the victims as Donavon Fogle, 25, Troy Saylor, 28, Brandi Hansen Moats, 25, and Amber Marie Beyers, 33. All four were from Billings.
Two men arrested Thursday night in the case each face four counts of negligent homicide and one count of felony arson.
The suspects — Zaccary John Kern and Robert Eric Bottenhagen, both 21 and from Billings — were being held at the Yellowstone County Jail. It was uncertain if they had retained attorneys.
Probable cause affidavits filed by Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said both men admitted during interviews with investigators to being at a party at the residence earlier in the night. Kern denied further involvement, according to the documents.
But a female witness who picked up the two suspects said that after leaving the party, the men discussed having lit an apron on fire after the others at the home went to sleep, the affidavits said.
“Both stated to this witness that they thought they had put the apron out before leaving the residence,” the affidavit said. “At one point (they) drove back to the residence and observed the fire and the emergency vehicles. Both of them panicked and state that they could not believe this was happening.”
Linder said further tests will be done to confirm the cause of death. There were no signs of trauma or bodily injuries to the victims, the affidavits said.
Firefighters were called to the mobile home in Lockwood, just northeast of Billing, shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday. They arrived as smoke and flames came from what appeared to be the kitchen area.
Crews entered the residence and got the fire under control in about 10 minutes, Lockwood Fire Chief Bill Rash said.
“I don’t’ believe any of them lived at the residence,” Linder said in a public statement. “Whether they ran in the same circles, or just happened to be acquaintances or friends, those are things we’re trying to discover through the investigation.”
Linder added that the charges against Kern and Bottenhagen were subject to change, pending further investigation.
The night of the fire, neighbor Troy Donges said he was awakened by his son, who had been listening to music when he heard a loud bang. The son looked out the window and saw flames at the mobile home across the street.
Donges said he went to the burning trailer and banged on the side to wake up anybody who might be inside.
Another neighbor called 911 while he ran to the mobile home to help Donges.