Questions swirl around unsolved Flora fatal fire investigation

Flora fire victims Keyana, Keyara, Kerriele and Kionnie. (Provided by family)

FLORA, Ind. (WTHR) - A single county rocked by two major murder cases.

One involving two girls killed in Delphi, the other involved four sisters trapped inside a burning home in Flora. It's a fire investigators say was deliberately set.

Now, police say they are questioning persons of interest as the family of the Flora girls want to know why the arson case has gotten less police support, reward money, and public calls for help.

13 Investigates went in search of answers and discovered two state agencies involved in the case at odds and two investigating officers with a troubling rift.

It's been six months since four little girls died in a house fire in Flora. Now Indiana State Police say they have identified persons of interest.

"I believe that somebody knows who was in that house that morning of November the 21st. And I hope they have the courage to talk about that experience and why, because we have lots of questions. That person may have had no idea of who was in there," said ISP Superintendent Doug Carter.

Keyana, Keyara, Kerriele, and Konnie all died in the rental home where they lived on East Columbia Street in Flora.

Their converted apartment went up in flames November 21, 2016. There were no batteries in the smoke detectors upstairs where the girls slept.

Their mother, Gaylin Rose, awoke to thick, suffocating smoke. She ran outside, screaming for help. Two officers narrowly escaped with their lives trying to save the girls.

Gaylin Rose's four daughters died in the November 2016 fire.
Gaylin Rose's four daughters died in the November 2016 fire.

"It's one of the worst things to ever happen in Carroll County. It might be the worst," Carroll County Prosecutor Rob Ives said speaking of the tragedy.

"We are taking each of the rooms and looking at them independently to look for all possible causes," State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said hours after the fire. It was the last time Greeson has spoken to Eyewitness News about the case.

At first, the Indiana State Fire Marshal's investigators thought wiring behind the refrigerator started the fire. Then, in January, a stunning announcement was made through a hastily sent press release on a Saturday afternoon.

Indiana Department of Homeland Security arson investigator Dennis Randle said there were accelerants found throughout the home.

It was alarming news.

"I'm angry. They took four lives from me, so I'm angry about the whole situation," Rose said during a dedication ceremony weeks ago.

But unlike the killings of two teens just a few miles away in Delphi, there was no press conference, no unified stance with state and federal investigators vowing to track down the culprit, and no notification of the arson announcement to the Carroll County prosecutor.

"I don't recall that I was (contacted)," Ives revealed.

"I want publicity around this case because I want it to be solved," Ives said, explaining why he agreed to sit down for an interview.

13 Investigates has learned Randle wanted to send out a release announcing the arson at the end of the day on Friday, January 27. A DHS communications staffer tried to persuade him to wait, possibly until the following Monday.

In an email obtained by 13 Investigates, the staffer writes:

"Denny - Please review!

It's getting late in the day, so I'm not sure this will go out yet today - it might need to wait for better coverage."

Randle sent out the release anyway on Saturday afternoon, when no one was around to talk about the huge development. ISP was the lead agency at the time and was in the dark, too. Ives had asked ISP to take over the case weeks earlier.

The fallout behind the scenes was immediate. Carter says the release was premature, because ATF had yet to get evidence back from the lab.

"There has been conversation about what happens has to be shared with the ISP and with the detectives assigned to this," revealed Carter.

But 13 Investigates has learned that hasn't happened.

An independent arson investigator working the case sent a scathing email to the Department of Homeland Security and Fire Marshal Jim Greeson.

A copy of the email also came to 13 Investigates. We reached out to the Michigan investigator who admitted he sent the emails, but says he did not forward them on to news media.

The Michigan investigator writes:

"(The) press release by the State Fire Marshal about the conclusions of their investigation are NOT CORRECT, and completely based on speculation and NOT evidence."

"(Randle's) statement about 'accelerants' being discovered in 'several' locations is absolutely NOT based on any evidence discovered at the scene during the investigation; and the investigator Dennis Randle was not performing a proper Origin & Cause Investigation based on the current procedures."

He went on to ask for Randle to be removed from the case.

We showed the letters to both the prosecutor and the ISP superintendent.

"I don't know about this, but I'll find out," said Carter, who was surprised by the contents.

"I've never seen this letter before," said Ives.

Carroll County Prosecutor Rob Ives reads a letter from a Michigan investigator about the Flora case.
Carroll County Prosecutor Rob Ives reads a letter from a Michigan investigator about the Flora case.

Ives admits there's been little contact with the state fire marshal's office.

"The state fire marshal considers, I believe, part of its task to look into the criminal aspect of the case, but as far as I'm concerned, the lead investigative agency on this case is the Indiana State Police," Ives told 13 Investigates.

What might seem like two state agencies clashing on who leads a big case, may actually have deeper roots.

Two lead detectives, one for DHS the other for the State Police, have a history. A possible conflict of interest. It dates back to 2014 and a woman in a mugshot.

Jean Ann Randle
Jean Ann Randle

Jean Ann Randle admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from the attorney she worked for. The money went to pay her mortgage, credit card bills and a business she owned with her husband, Dennis Randle, the former Carroll County Sheriff turned DHS arson investigator.

The state police investigator on Jean Randle's case? Detective Gregg Edwards - the same investigator who led the Flora fire investigation until just over a week ago.

As part of the theft case, Edwards deposed Dennis Randle to determine if he knew about the stolen money. In the end, there was no proof he was aware of his wife's activities.

"Does it mean they'll be best friends? Probably not, but I don't know the answer to that question," said Carter.

The state fire marshal refused to sit down to talk about the Flora case and the appearance of conflicts of interest.

All of this as state police ask for witnesses to come forward on behalf of four little girls.

"We need people talking to people and people to be listening to other people and reporting it appropriately," Carter said.

"My only concern about this case is that it's properly investigated, and that it's publicized and that people know that people like me care very deeply about these little girls and we want justice for them," said Ives.

A new ISP investigator was recently assigned to take over the Flora fire investigation. Edwards, who was on the case for the first six months, transferred to another position.

Both ISP and DHS are still questioning witnesses and individuals who might have helpful information.

Family members we spoke with say they are very concerned about how the case is progressing and want to see a stronger presence when it comes to solving the case that claimed the lives of four little girls.