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Woman accused of setting fire that killed father-in-law

December 21, 2017

WEST POINT, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi woman was arrested for capital murder after investigators concluded she set a house fire that killed her disabled father-in-law on Thanksgiving.

Latoria Brownlee, 37, is accused in the murder of William Brownlee Sr., who died in a fire in his home. She was arrested Wednesday and denied bail in a Thursday morning hearing in West Point Municipal Court, as is required when a person is charged with capital murder in Mississippi. It’s unclear if Brownlee, who could face execution, has a lawyer to speak for her.

The Daily Times Leader reports Brownlee said little during Thursday’s hearing before Municipal Judge Bennie Jones, but held a paper including questions such as “Why would I do this?” and “Why would I burn my own house down?” that she never asked.

West Point Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne has said investigators determined an incendiary was used to set the fire, which burned most intensely around 62-year-old William Brownlee Sr.’s bed. Brownlee didn’t smoke and there was no heater in the room, raising suspicions of arson.

Police Det. Eric Johnson and Clay County District Attorney Scott Colom wouldn’t say what investigators believed was used to start the fire.

“The best thing I can say so as to not taint the evidence is that we don’t think the fire was accidental,” Colom said Thursday.

Minutes after the fire was reported, Latoria Brownlee posted on her Facebook page that she was at Wal-Mart in West Point. Thursday, Colom and Johnson would not say whether they thought that post was an effort to steer suspicion away from her and provide an alibi. Colom said investigators believe they know why Brownlee set the fire, but wouldn’t disclose the motive.

Colom said the case will be presented to grand jurors for possible indictment, but didn’t say when.

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Information from: The Daily Leader, http://www.dailyleader.com

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