The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 26, 2012

Wheaton fire investigators say cause could soon be disclosed

WHEATON, Mo. — As the first funeral took place on Monday, investigators said they could reveal today or Wednesday the cause of the Thanksgiving Day fire that killed five people in the Blue Ridge Apartments in Wheaton.

Detective Doug Henry, lead investigator for the Barry County Sheriff’s Department, on Monday said a joint investigation with the state Division of Fire Safety could wrap up soon.

“We hope to be done by Wednesday,” Henry said. “The cause, which will be released by the fire marshal’s office, is still undetermined at this time.”

Two state investigators were dispatched to the scene on Thursday, including the supervisor of the division’s fire investigation unit. The division was still actively investigating the fire on Monday, said Mike O’Connell, communications director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

Henry said there is no indication that the fire was arson. All five victims died of smoke inhalation, according to Barry County coroner’s office.

Services for one of the victims, Jonathan “Jay” Gemmecke, 32, were conducted Monday in Wheaton. Gemmecke, who grew up in Wheaton, worked in maintenance at International Dehydrated Foods in Monett, according to McQueen Funeral Home.

Investigators have determined that the fire might have started on a couch in an upstairs apartment occupied by Gemmecke and Molly Doherty, 54, another victim, on the southwest side of the building. The two-story building had eight two-bedroom apartments.

Records show Gemmecke suffered critical injuries in a stabbing that took place the night of Sept. 12 in Monett. Gemmecke, who was living in Cassville at the time, drove himself to Cox Monett Hospital. He later was flown to a Springfield hospital.

Gemmecke told officers that he was stabbed by a man on a bicycle outside of a Monett residence. A 32-year-old woman at the residence was arrested in connection with the assault.

Henry said he was aware of the stabbing incident involving Gemmecke, but that there was no connection to the fire.

Doherty had lived in Wheaton since 1983. She was employed as a photo lab specialist at the Wal-Mart store in Monett. Services, under the direction of McQueen Funeral Home, will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Wheaton United Methodist Church.

Also killed in the fire were Mary Henning, 43; her 8-year-old son, Brandon Thurston; and Henning’s fiance, Corey Hasche, 23.

Henning, a 1989 graduate of Carl Junction High School, was disabled, according to the funeral home. The funeral for Henning and her son, a third-grade pupil at Wheaton Elementary School, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Solid Rock Baptist Church in Wheaton.

Arrangements for Hasche were pending on Monday, according to McQueen Funeral Home.

Sixteen other occupants escaped from the burning building without physical injury. Clothing, food and other necessities are being distributed at the Wheaton Community Center. The American Red Cross, which dispatched five caseworkers to Wheaton, has found temporary housing for most of the survivors.

The apartment building and another nearby are managed by Bell Management of Joplin. Rick Schroeder, president of Bell Management, said Monday that he was advised by legal counsel to not comment on the fire.

Schroeder said he had been interviewed Monday by a fire investigator about the apartment building’s smoke detectors and fire-alarm system.

A relative of one of the victims has expressed concern about whether the apartments contained functioning smoke detectors and whether a fire-alarm system had been activated. Witnesses in the apartment building at the time of the fire said smoke detectors and other alarms were activated by the fire.

Bell Management manages about 3,700 apartments in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • r072814dogbike.jpg Cross-country trip promotes animal adoption

    Where’s Bixby? Not the town in Oklahoma, but the dog on the back of a bicycle ridden by Mike Minnick. On Monday, the two were in Joplin, one stop on a cross-country bike trip to promote the adoption of dogs and cats from local shelters.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seneca man draws concurrent term in sexual abuse case

    A 39-year-old man who sexually abused a girl over a four-year period in both Joplin and Seneca received a 15-year sentence Monday in Newton County that will run concurrently with a term he received earlier this year in Jasper County.

    July 28, 2014

  • Defendant who pulled knife on ER doctor sent for treatment

    A man accused of pulling a knife on a Freeman Hospital West emergency room doctor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday and was sentenced to the state prison system’s Institutional Treatment Center.

    July 28, 2014

  • Judge lifts seal on records in Parsons quadruple slaying

    A judge has rescinded his order sealing court records in the case of David Bennett Jr., who is accused of killing a Parsons woman and her three children.

    July 28, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to build second local Neighborhood Market

    A second Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market store is planned for Joplin. The company has filed an application with the city to rezone nearly six acres of land on the west side of town in the tornado zone to build a new Neighborhood Market and gas station.

    July 28, 2014

  • r072814mailcar.jpg VIDEO: Train mail car trailered on Joplin's Main Street to Redings Mill

    With a police escort leading the way Monday, postal car No. 34 breezed through downtown Joplin en route to its new home in Redings Mill, where it was greeted by a welcome party of local residents and railroad enthusiasts.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: ‘Annie’ production is a family thing

    There’s a twist to this week’s production of “Annie” at Memorial Auditorium. The show, a beloved classic tale of an orphan girl in search of a family, is full of real-life family members.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 Band Box.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage icon continues to play in local restaurant

    Chicago Coin’s Band-Box, also known as “Strike Up the Band,” has been a Carthage icon since the mid- to late 1950s. Any customer who frequented Red’s Diner, or Ray’s Cafe, and now the Pancake Hut is familiar with the pulsating rhythms and movements of this mechanical device.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter