METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - As the investigation into a June 10 Metairie apartment fire continues, Crimestoppers has increased the reward to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest and indictment.
Three people were killed and one was injured after someone deliberately set fire to the stairwell area and front door of the apartment on Harvard Avenue, according to investigators. Police said while they have several "persons of interest," Jefferson Parish homicide detectives are now asking for the public's help in finding additional witnesses.
Deputies said that 58-year-old Terrill Normand was being investigated in connection with the fire and was being held on an outstanding attachment. Police said Normand had an infatuation with one of the fire victims and had been linked to the area at the time of the fire by several pieces of evidence.
Normand invoked his right to a lawyer while being questioned. He has not been charged with anything relating to the fire.
Investigators found evidence of an accelerant near the area where the fire started, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Cmdr. John Fortunato.
Fortunato said a preliminary investigation by homicide detectives showed the three bodies inside the apartment were that of a white female believed to be in her early 40s, a white male in his early 30s and another white male in his late 50s. The surviving male victim is a 44-year-old black male, who owns the apartment.
Jeffery Evans, 58, was later identified as one of the victims. The names of the other two have not been released.
Fortunato said on the morning of the fire, the apartment owner woke up and was told there was smoke and fire at the front door and in the staircase of the apartment. When he and the others realized the exit was blocked, the four victims went into a second-floor bedroom. The surviving victim jumped out of the window, thinking the others would follow, Fortunato said. But they never made it out.
Three neighboring apartments sustained smoke and water damage, but the residents were able to get out thanks to smoke detectors that alerted them to the fire.
One neighbor said he gave food to the victims on a regular basis.
"I used to, at least three times a week, feed them, because I have a friend that lives in an apartment that would give me meals to give to them," said Rumney Powell. "Actually one of the guys - the one who jumped out the window - day before yesterday I gave him, like, 24 canned goods. They just, you know, they seemed like they were on some type of fixed income."
Nine fire units with 44 personnel responded.
"It's a very sad situation," said State Fire Marshal Butch Browning. "Three people perished this morning from the fire. We take this very seriously. We're going to work very closely with local partners - Jefferson Parish Fire Department, the Sheriff's Office - to try to determine what happened. Right now it's really preliminary. We're reconstructing the fire scene."