Investigators seeking more DNA evidence in massive Orem house arson case

Feb 27, 2024, 5:02 PM

A massive house fire in Orem, Utah is under investigation for the cause of the fire, which firefigh...

A massive house fire in Orem, Utah is under investigation for the cause of the fire, which firefighters say could take days. (Tauni Merrell)

(Tauni Merrell)

OREM — Investigators looking into the massive fire that destroyed a 27,000-square-foot home in December recently requested to go back into the structure to collect additional DNA evidence, according to court records.

Just before 6 a.m. on Dec. 26, a large unoccupied home at 479 E. 1450 North worth an estimated $3.9 million was reported to be on fire. By the time the flames were extinguished, the home was determined to be a total loss.

In January, Orem police and fire officials announced that investigators believe the cause of the fire is arson. But few other details were released at that time.

The home was undergoing renovation at the time of the fire and no one was known to be living inside. However, police have not said when they believe the homeowner was last in the house, only noting there was “interaction with residents” at the home over the holidays, without elaborating.

The seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom multi-level home has an indoor swimming pool and tennis court which was in use. But otherwise, it was vacant with very few furnishings. Neighbors say it had been vacant for many years.

During the initial investigation in the days immediately following the fire, “accelerants were detected at multiple interior locations in the residence,” according to a recently unsealed search warrant filed in 4th District Court. “In addition, multiple ‘pour patterns’ were identified on both the floor and across furniture inside the structure.”

While investigators were reviewing the case on Jan. 31, “it was determined there is a exterior door on the northeast portion of the building which leads from the ground level to a ladder which descends to the interior of the basement/basketball court. When investigators arrived on scene, initially this door was unsecured and there was no evidence of forced entry. During the case review, it was noted during the homeowner interview, this door was secured and could only be unlocked/accessed from the interior or the building. Based on this information, investigators and evidence technicians are seeking re-entry to the property in order to collect any fingerprints and/or DNA,” the affidavit states.

Additionally, investigators say there were unconfirmed reports a flashlight was seen outside the house while firefighters were doing their initial sweep on the night of the fire, according to the affidavit.

“This flashlight was never located or recovered during the initial scene processing.”

As of Tuesday, the investigation was continuing as police waited for those DNA test results to come back from the Utah State Crime Lab. No arrests have been made or persons of interest named.

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Investigators seeking more DNA evidence in massive Orem house arson case