Authorities Treating Deadly House Fire In Bethany As Homicide

Monday, March 23rd 2015, 5:30 pm
By: News 9

Firemen discovered a body inside a burning home in Bethany Monday morning. Now police there have called in state investigators to help determine if the fire was intentionally set and if it was started to cover up a murder.

It was a 911 call from neighbors that alerted authorities to the fire. The OSBI, ATF and the Oklahoma Fire Marshall's office are all involved in this investigation along with Bethany police and fire crews.

The home is located in the 6700 block of NW 24th St., and the crime scene spans all the way to the back of the Iglesia Evangelical church on NW 23rd St.

Tax assessor records show the church owns the home where the fire started. And the pastor there says the body found inside the burning home was that of a 73-year-old missionary from Mexico.

Pastor Pablo Gonzales says a church member called him about the fire early Monday morning.

With the help of an interpreter, Gonzales told News 9 it was a 73-year-old missionary from Mexico living inside the home and that he was a very humble, sincere man who loved God and followed God.

3/23/2015 Related Story: Police: Body Found After Bethany House Fire

Gonzales says the man would often come over to the church to help and preach sermons to his church in Bethany. He says he is shocked and saddened to hear his friend of two years is now gone. He says neither the man nor the church has any enemies that he knows of and has no idea why anyone would want to set fire to one of the homes the church owns.

“It's a lot of activity for our block, its usually pretty quiet,” said Jack Johnson, who lives caddy corner across the street from the home that caught fire and saw smoke billowing through the roof. “Of course it doesn't look that bad, but you can see spots all the way around the house where it was coming up.”

Johnson says he has lived out here more than 30 years and claims a friend of his sold that home to the church, but he did not know anyone was living in it. Now investigators are trying to determine exactly what happened inside the home, but they confirm they are treating it as a homicide.

“We've been out here for numerous hours collecting evidence,” said Jessica Brown with the Oklahoma State Bureau of investigations. "We are trying to interview anyone who was around this area to see if they heard or saw anything about midnight.”

Right now the ME and investigators have not released the name of the victim or the cause and manner of death.

Gonzalez says he has been in touch with the missionary's wife who lives in Mexico, and that they plan to hold a memorial service later in the week.