Fire Marshal: Property owner, tenants burn down home for insurance money

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FOX 8 file photo
Updated: Jun. 21, 2018 at 8:40 AM CDT
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In order from left to right: Lonnie Cavaness, Kyle DuPre, and Amber Miller. They are accused of...
In order from left to right: Lonnie Cavaness, Kyle DuPre, and Amber Miller. They are accused of arson for insurance money. Source: State Fire Marshal's Office

LAFOURCHE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - A property owner and his tenants have been charged after the Louisiana State Fire Marshall said they purposely burned down a home in Houma for insurance money.

According to the report, on June the state fire marshal's office was requested requested by the Bayou Blue Volunteer Fire Department for a fire in the 1700 block of Lacroix Drive in Houma.

Investigators were told there had been one occupant in the residence that morning, a tenant, who had left a curling iron plugged in when she went next door to talk to a neighbor.

According to the report, when she returned home she noticed smoke and fire in the back part of the house and went back to the next door neighbor to call 911.

The neighbor told investigators that they went into the home to see where the fire started when they found a mattress on fire in the rear left bedroom.

After assessing the scene, investigators determined the area of origin to be the bed in the back bedroom, but deemed the cause undetermined.

Three months later, investigators received new information from the other two tenants of the home at the time of the fire.

The tenants, who were at work at the time of the fire, said they believed the owner of the home, Lonnie Cavaness, who was also their employer, was behind setting the fire in collaboration with the third tenant who was at the home at the time of the fire, Amber Miller.

The man and woman said Miller admitted to them that she had set the fire in exchange for being paid by Cavaness.

In October 2017, Miller was arrested for simple arson.

In a new statement to investigators, Miller claimed the neighbor, Kyle Dupre, who is also her cousin, set the house on fire for Cavaness in exchange for money.

According to the report, an additional witness also said Dupre admitting to them that he set the house on fire in exchange for part of the insurance money that Cavaness would collect from the fire.

The witness also said there were additional fires that Dupre had set for Cavaness, according to the state fire marshal.

On February 18, 2018, Dupre  was arrested for simple arson, but denied any involvement in the fire.

Dupre requested to speak to investigators about the case.

According to the report, Dupre told investigators he was an employee of Cavaness' at the time of the fire.

He claimed that Cavaness developed the plan to burn the house down in order to evict two of the three tenants and collect insurance money, according to investigators.

Dupre said in the report that after Cavaness asked if he knew anyone who would burn the house down, he offered to do it for $1,000.

Dupre admitted to entering the house when all three tenants were gone and setting a fire on the stove, the state fire marshal said.

However, when Miller returned to find the smoke, he said he re-entered the home and moved the smoldering material to the back bedroom where he piled clothes on top, lit a shirt and left, while Miller watched, according to the report.

Dupre also admitted to setting fire to the house he was staying in next door, also owned by Cavaness, for $1,000.

That fire occurred in the evening hours of July 12, 2017, and Dupre said he set it the same way as the first fire.

Cavaness had received $85,377 in insurance money for the first fire and $84,300 for the second, according to the report.

On June 14 Cavaness was arrested for arson with intent to defraud. He denied any involvement in the fires.

Additional charges are expected for Dupre and Cavaness.

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