Agent Calls For Charges Against Landlord In Purcell House Fire

Wednesday, December 4th 2013, 6:21 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

An agent with the state Fire Marshal's office is asking for charges to be filed in a house fire where three young girls were injured.

Those three girls were released from the hospital and came home Wednesday. But the fire inspector assigned to the case says if the landlord would have put a working smoke detector in the house, they probably wouldn't have been injured at all.

The early morning November 20 fire in Purcell was ruled accidental, the result of an electrical problem.

11/20/2013 Related Story: Three Girls Injured While Escaping Burning Home In Purcell

But Agent Judah Sheppard with the Oklahoma Fire Marshall's office says it was no accident the flames reached the bedrooms of these three young girls, before they woke up.

"We believe based on statistics, the smoke detector would have given them an earlier warning and possibly gotten them all out without any injuries," said agent Sheppard.

That's why after seven years of investigating cases like this, Agent Judah Sheppard for the first time is asking for the district attorney to criminally charge the landlord of the house.

"All landlords, whether it's one resident or hundreds of residents, they have to provide and install a smoke detector, show the family how it works and that it does work," said Agent Sheppard.

That landlord is Neil Mc Elderry, who owns an insurance agency in Purcell. His son told us he wasn't in the office.

Agent Sheppard says Mc Elderry owns up to 200 rental properties in Purcell. And other tenants have told him their properties don't have working smoke detectors either.

But Agent Sheppard says it's not just McElderry who violates the law.

"This is a huge problem across the state of Oklahoma that landlords are not putting this in for people."

The charges would be a misdemeanor and carry a fine. The District Attorney still has to decide if charges will be filed.