Investigators filling in details

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — Pieces are starting to fall into place for authorities investigating Wednesday’s fatal fire, they said.

The Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s office is being assisted by Natchez Police Department, Natchez Fire Department and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation to determine what triggered the blaze at an East Oak Street residence.

The fire claimed the lives of 3-year-old Jaylin Graves and 2-year-old Landon Graves.

Email newsletter signup

The boys’ mother, Danielle Graves, was badly burned in the fire and airlifted to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., soon after the fire.

Her last known condition was critical but stable, NPD Lt. Craig Godbold said.

Godbold said investigators are now in the process of interviewing the occupants of the house.

“We are working to track down all the people that were at the house at the time of the fire,” Godbold said. “That is what our role is. We live here and can help find these people, and the fire marshal is from out of town and wouldn’t always know where to start looking.”

Through the interview process, Godbold said the authorities are trying to figure out where in the house each individual was when the fire started.

“We found and were able to talk to one more person (Monday), and I think there is one more person that the fire marshal needs to talk to,” he said.

The first 911 call reporting the fire was received at 8:54 a.m. When Natchez Fire Department crews arrived, fire was coming out of a side window as well as the front and back sides of the house, Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart said Wednesday.

The house’s primary resident, Makita Smith, was recently released from a local hospital. Godbold said fire investigators were able to talk to her Monday.

It was originally believed that up to eight people were living in the house at the time of the fire. Godbold said in the course of the investigation, conflicting stories have surfaced.

“We are working to get an accurate record of who was in the house and where they were at the actual time of the fire,” Godbold said. “We are getting some different reports about where people were and who was in the house.

“What (investigators) don’t understand is how (the fire) progressed as far as it did with adults in the house.”

Donna Cromeans, public relations director for the Mississippi Insurance Department, of which the Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s Office is a part, said no information can be released until the investigation is complete.