CENTERBURG — Cars with sightseers drove up and down Oliver Road on Friday, some stopping to take a better look, others snapping photos. Only hours earlier, family members waited anxiously as firefighters and investigators searched the debris of the burned-out home for the body many hoped was not inside.
About an hour after firefighters arrived Thursday night to find the home at 1396 Oliver Road completely ablaze, they had brought the fire under control. It was then they discovered the remains of a man in a family room about 10 feet from the garage entrance to the home.
According to Knox County Sheriff David Barber, Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle positively identified those remains as belonging to 47-year-old Jeffrey Hurst, who had once lived in the home. He formerly shared the house with his wife, Deanna, and their children. His last listed address was in Columbus.
According to the Division of State Fire Marshal, investigators have not made a determination as to the cause of the fire. Spokesman Shane Cartmill would only confirm Thursday what evidence was not found at the scene.
“Investigators found no guns, weapons or containers that would indicate the presence of ignitable liquids,” Cartmill said.
He added that evidence was collected from the scene and taken to the State Fire Marshal forensic laboratory for further analysis.
Firefighters on the scene Thursday night, including Central Ohio Joint Fire District Chief Joe Porter, a fire service veteran with 24 years experience, said the fire appeared incendiary in nature because of its rapid spread and the manner in which the house quickly collapsed in on itself.
Cartmill said it was too soon for investigators to make a final judgment. He said the samples taken from the scene will help definitively determine whether an accelerant was used.
Cartmill said investigators have been unable to substantiate several pieces of information provided during witness interviews.
“I can’t go into any specific details,” he said, “but some of the stuff we’ve been told we haven’t be able to corroborate yet.”
An autopsy on Hurst’s body was completed Thursday at the Licking County Coroner’s Office. According to Cartmill, more information, including toxicology results, is pending, and could take six to eight weeks to complete.