House Fire Ruled as Homicide, Death Toll Now 5
Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The death toll from a house fire has been raised to five, according to police.
Police Capt. Steve McCool said the deaths have been ruled as homicides, the fire was intentionally set and one of the victims was pregnant. The cause of death for the three women and one man remains under investigation.
The deadly house fire happened early Monday morning in a one-story rental home in southwest Oklahoma City. Investigators have not released the victims names.
"We believe we know who [the victims] are but we certainly want to make sure and err on the side of caution," said Oklahoma City Police MSgt. Gary Knight.
But while police are holding names, a memorial lays in the front lawn of the house for a woman identified by a Myspace tribute page as 25-year-old Jennifer Ermey with messages on it saying "Jennifer Ermey Has gone onto heaven R.I.P. 11-09-09," the same day as the fire.
And on Ermey's personal myspace page her last comment she wrote the day before the fire was, "Throwing on my dress and going to pick up Uh Millie."
Millie, whose real name according to friends is Milagros Barras, is also believed to have been one of the other victims in the fire. NEWS 9 spoke to Thelma Pinilla, Millie's friend, at a vigil she organized at the house to honor her friend.
"She was an amazing person. She was the happiest person," Pinilla said.
The owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, Dennis Hof, identified the third woman as Brooke Phillips, 21, of Moore.
Phillips, who was also known as Hayden Brooks, was a reality star on the HBO series 'Cathouse,' which was shot at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.
One person who not been identified by anyone is the one male victim. He was originally thought to be the man renting the house, 31-year-old Jose Fernando Fierro, but that turned out not to be the case.
Fierro was interviewed by police Wednesday and tried to help detectives further their investigation, said Shawn Jefferson, his attorney. Jefferson declined to reveal details of what Fierro saw that night saying that information should come from police.
Police declined to reveal what Fierro told detectives. Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow confirmed that investigators have spoken to Fierro, and he is not a suspect.
"At this time, we have no suspects identified in the case," she said.
The bodies were found as firefighters worked to put out a blaze at the house early Monday.
Jefferson said Fierro is safe but scared.
"My client wasn't involved in any sort of crime and is not a suspect," Jefferson said. "He did make it out of the house alive. He was there when it happened. He was in another room, but yeah, he was there."
The attorney declined to say what Fierro's relationship was to the people who were killed other than to say one of the victims "was very, very close and dear to him."
Melvin Watkins, whose family owns the well-kept, one-story brick house on the city's southwest side, has said he rented it about three months ago to Fierro.
Watkins said he saw Fierro Sunday evening when he dropped off some items at a storage shed behind the home. He said the man was at the house alone and nothing seemed amiss.
A neighbor, Jay Holliday, said he was reading his newspaper about 5:15 a.m. Monday when he heard three "popping" noises. Fire officials were notified of the fire about five minutes later.
An entry on Fierro's MySpace page at 11:26 p.m. Sunday read: "kick'n back having a few beers..."
And while friends of the victims want justice, investigators cautioned it could take time.
"We do have a lot of unanswered questions. We still don't even know what killed these people, but we know the fire was set intentionally," Knight said.
Monday's fire came less than a week after a blaze at a southwest Oklahoma City apartment building several miles away killed three people. Investigators have said that fire was intentionally set.
There has been a special phone line set up specifically for tips regarding the homicides relating to the house fire. Anyone with information regarding this case should call (405) 297-1200. The new phone line will be manned, but if nobody answers, callers should leave a voicemail, as the line will be checked for messages regularly. This phone line is only for tips regarding this case. If it is an emergency, please call 911.