Death of St. Tammany district fire chief's wife ruled a homicide

Death of St. Tammany district fire chief's wife ruled a homicide

LACOMBE, LA (WVUE) - The death of the wife of a St. Tammany Parish fire district chief has been ruled a homicide according to a statement released by the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's office.

Shortly after, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith issued a statement disputing the findings.

Dr. Charles Preston said in a statement released Wednesday that his office has treated the case as a homicide from the beginning, but extensive damage to the remains required significant examination in addition to the initial autopsy.

After the coroner's office conducted its autopsy, Krentel's remains were sent to the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services  (FACES) Lab at LSU.

There, anthropologists studied the remain and issued a report in early September.

"Even before the second and third autopsies and the FACES Lab's report, there was adequate evidence to rule the death a homicide," Preston said. "Because of the complexity and sensitivity of the investigation, however, we wanted to give this case the utmost attention and thoroughness."

Preston said the remains have undergone three autopsies and a forensic reconstruction.

"Based on information I have received from FACES anthropologists, the State Fire Marshal, and our two pathologists, I am entirely comfortable in declaring this death a homicide," Preston said in his statement.

Preston also met with investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office to review their findings from the scene.

A second pathologist in the coroner's office conducted an autopsy, reaching the same conclusions.

Krentel's family also hired a pathologist who autopsied the remains.

Preston has not released the full findings of the FACES report due to the ongoing investigation into Krentel's death.

Smith released the statement Wednesday morning saying his office "does not necessarily support" the coroner's findings.

Smith along with representatives from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office, will hold a press conference Thursday at 10 a.m.

"At this time, the Sheriff's Office investigation does not necessarily support the Coroner's conclusion in this case. Sheriff Randy Smith will provide an update on the current status of the investigation at tomorrow's press conference."

One the day of the fire, authorities were called to a home on Philip Smith Road in Lacombe.

When fire personnel from several fire districts and representatives from the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office arrived, they found the home fully engulfed in flames.

After extinguishing the fire, Krentel's badly burned body was found in the home. The body was turned over to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office for an autopsy.

DNA positively identify the body as that of Krentel. The autopsy also revealed a gunshot wound and determined Krentel's death was caused by the gunshot and not the fire.

Krentel was the wife of St. Tammany Fire District No. 12 Chief Stephen Krentel.

At the time, arson investigators said the case is especially difficult because the fire had been burning for nearly an hour before it was discovered, making evidence gathering difficult.

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