Ky. arson investigator wants to reopen 20-year-old cold case

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by Whitney Harding

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 19 at 6:45 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Highview Deputy Chief Firefighter Rob Dwyer knew Craig Drury as more than a firefighter. They were childhood friends, classmates and then eventually firefighter brothers.
    
"He was just exciting,” Dwyer said with a smile. “It was always fun to be around Craig."
    
On the night of August 24, 1994, Rob responded to the structure fire at 6807 Mount Washington Road with fellow Highview firefighter Dave Goldsmith, who is now the current chief. Rob said he will never forget what came next.
    
"When we got there I saw a hose in the front door and my heart just sank,” he said. Because, I knew how much fire was in that house and that meant there were firefighters inside that house."
    
Dave said the duo went straight to business with the first mission being getting those who were inside out of harm’s way.

"Rob and I were the ones that went in the back door and got Pat Conn out and then we found Thomas Snyder and got him out,” Dave explained. “Then we turned and came out behind them."

"We had no idea how many people were in there,” Rob said. "As I come out I remember Ted, Craig's father, look up at Major Larkins and say, 'I haven't seen Craig come out yet.'"

Craig had gone in the front door with another firefighter. When help went in to get them, they were both already unconscious. When the firefighters pull Craig out of the house, he was badly injured with burns and smoke inhalation.

Two weeks later, he died from the burns he sustained in that fire.
 
"I beat myself up for a while thinking, I could have gotten him out sooner," said Rob through sobs.

"We only got two out and that's been…” Dave pauses to find the right words and hold back the tears. Finally, he finishes. “That sticks in the back of your mind."

To make the story even more heartbreaking, Craig was to be married on September 10, 1994 at St. Bernard’s Church in Highview. Instead, the day before, September 9, his friends, family and community were at the church but remembering him at his funeral.

A lot of work was done on the arson case in the following year, but no arrests came. In 2006 the arson units in the Louisville area were reorganized and Major Henry Ott found himself with boxes of new folders from past cases. A large one contained all the information from that arson case that began on August 24, 1994.

So 15 years later, Ott decided it was time to take another look.

"From 1995 to 2006 there wasn't a lot of work done on the investigation,” he said. “We believe that the people involved of the actual cause, of setting the fire, are still alive."

Ott says there are many suspicious elements to the case. The family that owned the home, the Crumes, were a white couple that were foster parenting three African American children at the time.

"I believe it was racially motivated,” Ott said simply. “It definitely has a racial overtone to it. At the time of the fire an African American jockey statue was hung from a tree, and everything that we've done the past couple of years this fire is focusing more on...it involved a race issue."

Ott knows new information is going to come from the public. He firmly believes there are people out there who have the piece he needs to finish the puzzle; he just has to find them.

"We're trying to stimulate some information to see if there's somebody out there who knows something, and we believe there's people that do, is to try to make contact with them and get them to talk to us," he said.

For Dave and Rob, simply having answers would be a dream come true.

"It's already happened once this year: I'll have a nightmare,” Rob said through tear-filled eyes, “and I'll be crawling around that house. I'm very thankful that Major Ott is doing what he's doing."

If you have any information about what happened 20 years ago you are urged to call 1-800-27-ARSON, which is 1-800-272-7766. A reward for any information is being offered.

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