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Questions linger year after fire killed 3

Jim ChapmanMay 27, 2019

Larry and Amber Shaw and their son, Elijah, went skating at the Roller Dome.

It was Friday night before Memorial Day weekend 2018.

“The next thing you know, they’re gone,” Amber Shaw’s mother, Dawn Heindselman, said last week.

A year has passed since the Shaws died in a house fire in the 9200 block of Wheelock Road north of Flutter Road in northeast Allen County.

The cause of the May 26 blaze remains undetermined, the Indiana Fire Marshal’s Office and Allen County Sheriff’s Department said last week. The fire marshal has said damage was too extensive. The ruling could change if new information is provided.

Heindselman, however, said she believes the fire was intentionally set, although she declined to publicly say why.

“We all have our suspicions,” Heindselman said. “We have right from the get-go.”

She said investigators are awaiting tests on forensic fire samples.

Although Heindselman won’t say investigators are “not doing their jobs,” she thinks they could use another set of eyes. 

The fire was one of seven fatal fires in Allen County last year. It’s the only fatal blaze from 2018 that remains unsolved.

Deputy Chief Adam O’Connor of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, which is not investigating this blaze, said it’s not uncommon for a cause to be undetermined. But the public and firefighters pay more attention to such rulings when they involve deaths, he said.

Larry and Amber Shaw were married 22 years, Heindselman said.

Larry, 47, worked at USSI in Columbia City. Amber, 43, was a digital graphic designer for Sweet Shoppe Designs. She designed greeting cards and recently won an award, her mother said.

Elijah, 12, was home-schooled. Before that, he attended Harrison Hill Elementary, Heindselman said.

He had a huge smile, was easygoing, liked group hugs and gave his grandmother kisses, she said.

The Shaws’ Friday night tradition was skating at the Roller Dome.

“I’m missing a big part of my life,” Heindselman said.

In the Shaws’ home was a coffee table with a Bible on it. The table didn’t survive the fire, but the Bible did. 

That gave her strength, Heindselman said, to continue questioning the investigation.

The Allen County coroner said Larry and Amber Shaw both died from thermal burns and smoke inhalation. Elijah died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide intoxication. The manner in which all three died is undetermined, the coroner said.

As they continue coping with their loss, Heindselman and her husband, Terry, have a strong support group, they said. 

“I gotta push myself to keep going,” said Heindselman, who works at Zimmer-Biomet in Warsaw. “I’m not old. I’m only 62.”

A friend, Angie Coe, started a Facebook page, “Justice for the Shaws.”

“The purpose of this page is to raise awareness that there is still no justice for our family,” the first of many posts of the page says. “If you know anything, PLEASE come forward.”

Heindselman is hoping that day comes soon.

When her phone rings, she wonders if police are calling with information.

“It may have been a year’s gone by, but it still feels like yesterday,” Terry Heindselman said.

jchapman@jg.net

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