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Archive for Thursday, February 25, 1993

LEADS SCANT IN FATAL FIRE

February 25, 1993

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Saying that leads had dwindled in an investigation into a Jan. 17 fatal arson fire, city and county authorities today cut manpower in a special investigation team assigned to the blaze.

Rich Barr, Lawrence fire marshal, said the Douglas County Fire Investigation Squad board of directors met this morning and decided to cut manpower on the squad from 10 investigators to six.

"It's been five weeks," he said. "We've worked a lot of leads very heavily. But at this point in time, there's a reduced number of leads."

The investigation squad was activated shortly after the blaze at an apartment building at 714 W. 25th. LaTonya Farmer, 17, and Brandy Martin, 13, both died from injuries they suffered in the fire.

Barr said this morning that the squad had followed more than 250 leads but had been unable to identify any suspects.

Barr said that although he was disappointed that no suspects had been identified, he was extremely pleased with the squad's work.

"They've been doing as good a job as anyone could do," he said.

Originally, the squad had 11 members from the the Kansas University and Lawrence police departments, the Lawrence Fire Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.

At the two-week mark, Barr said, a firefighter dropped out of the squad after becoming ill.

Barr said the board of directors Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson, Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin, Fire Chief Jim McSwain and Kansas University Police Director Jim Denney decided this morning to retain four Lawrence police officers, a sheriff's deputy and a firefighter on the squad.

He said the board would probably meet again in two weeks to evaluate the squad's progress and determine whether to keep it together.

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