Crime Scene Chaos

Nothing but charred rubble and a fatal mystery remains at the 201 Olive home where El Campo’s 1999 Citizen of the Year Martha Johnson once lived.  As the surviving victim undergoes surgery for her gunshot wounds, police led by Detective Justin Soza, above, along with state fire marshals prepared to start digging through the crumbled chaos left by the flames. 

El Campo police pulled a woman with multiple gunshot wounds from a raging house fire early Friday morning only to discover a man’s body still inside.

Now, the hunt for a shooter is under way as state fire marshals dig through the ashes of 201 Olive, once the home of 1999 El Campo Citizen of the Year the late Martha Johnson. Recently, however, it has been a home police routinely visit, summoned for disturbances and complaints of trespassing.

Shortly before 1 a.m. Friday morning, a call for help came into dispatch.

“The female victim called and said ‘I’ve been shot.’ Police arrive, kick the door in and were able to get her out. The flames were coming out of all the windows and the roof,” El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said Friday. “The officers’ uniforms were smoking.”

The woman, identified as 21-year-old Kaydra Sparks of El Campo, was transported via helicopter ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital. “She was shot multiple times to the chest and arms,” Assistant El Campo Police Chief Gary Williamson said.

Stable when transported, she was reportedly undergoing surgery on Friday and had not been able to give a statement to police.

The man found dead inside the charred rubble of the home is believed to be 23-year-old Keshun Riggins, although no formal identification has been made at this time. An autopsy is pending.

“We’re treating this as a homicide,” Williamson said.

No 9-1-1 calls came in reporting the fire itself.

 

Into Battle

 

El Campo’s firefighting volunteers were summoned to the roaring fire at the small one-story wood-framed home. “It was fully involved. We were behind when we got there,” El Campo Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy George Jr. said.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. Flames appeared to be heaviest near the front of the home when firefighters arrived, threatening the home next door.

“It was too fully involved to make entry,” George said.

One firefighter was injured by the intense heat of the blaze, while operating one of the firetruck pumps. “It injured a pump operator when he got out of the vehicle. It was going so heavy he got burned on the arm. It was cooking,” George said.

Louise and Danevang VFDs were called to assist in the fight, firefighters struggled with water supply. “The hydrant was a pretty good ways away,” George said.

The ECVFDs Compressed Air Foam System or CAFS was able to quickly smother the heart of the fire, but large amounts of water were used to protect the house next door. There were no vehicles in the vicinity.

Built in 1946, the property, now owned by Janice Bluntson, is valued at slightly more than $50,000, according to the Wharton Central Appraisal District.

 

Working The Case

 

As El Campo PD detectives interviewed neighbors and anyone else who may have been in the area early Friday morning, the Wharton County Sheriff Department added its crew of investigators to provide assistance.

“They’ve interviewed a lot of people, collected a lot of video,” Stanphill said.

Together with investigators from the state fire marshal’s office they shifted through the ashes of 201 Olive hunting for the cause of the blaze or any other evidence.

A Texas Ranger and representatives of the Wharton County District Attorney’s office also came down to assist.

“We’re working the case now, chasing down every lead,” Williamson said.

ECPD Detective Justin Soza is the lead investigator.

It’s too early to talk about suspects, he said Friday, adding the hunt for evidence was just getting under way.

He appreciated the help the ECPD was receiving, he said. “I love calling for help. I’m more than happy to work with other agencies.”

Possible Clues?

 

Police have responded to numerous calls involving 201 Olive in the past four years.

A report of a possible robbery there Monday led to two arrests (please see police blotter) and the seizure of multiple weapons. It’s unknown, however, at this point whether Monday’s incident is connected or just a happenstance.

Possible residents at the home have been involved in crimes themselves, some involving violence. That too, however, could be just a coincidence.

Information from the public, from those who saw something that night but have so far remained silent would help, Soza said, urging anyone with information to call.

Anyone who may have seen anyone or any vehicle leaving Olive and Taylor streets after midnight should contact El Campo Police at 979-543-5311 or the West Wharton County Crime Stoppers at 979-543-8477. Callers to the Crime Stoppers Tip Line do not have to give their names to qualify for a cash reward.

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