WEST POINT – A Clay County woman is in jail after being charged with capital murder in the Thanksgiving afternoon fire that claimed the life of her father-in-law.
West Point police arrested Latoria Jennae Brownlee, 37, Wednesday night. She was booked into the Clay County Jail on a charge of capital murder just before 8:30 p.m. During her initial court appearance Thursday morning, she was ordered held without bond.
William Brownlee Sr., 63, died in his Washington Street home during a Thanksgiving afternoon fire. Brownlee lived in the home with his son and daughter-in-law. He was bedridden and was found in bed in his bedroom. West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne said Brownlee was not a smoker and no space heater was found in the room.
“The State Fire Marshals investigation reported that the cause of the fire was not accidental,” West Point Police Det. Eric Johnson said during the Thursday press conference. Officials would not go into detail about what type of accelerant may have been used.
“Because there was an arson and a person died, that makes this a capital offense,” said 16th Circuit Court District Attorney Scott Colom. “We have a motive developed, but I don’t want to publicly disclose it at this point, because of the rules against pretrial publicity.”
According to published reports, Brownlee Sr. was home alone when the fire was first spotted around 4 p.m. Nov. 23. Children playing in the neighborhood spotted smoke and flames pouring from a bedroom window. They told their parents, who called 911.
Neighbors told the Times Daily Leader that Latoria Brownlee arrived at the house about 10 minutes after the fire was reported, while the son, who was farther away in Una visiting friends, took longer after being contacted by neighbors about the fire.