2017-11-22 / Front Page

House fire with three dead now a homicide & arson investigation

Sheriff ID's first victim
Kate Shunney

What began as a house fire call on New Hope Road last Saturday, November 25 has turned into a triple homicide investigation for local police and an arson case for the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office.

Three people were found dead at a single-family residence that burned to the ground on Saturday morning. One of the deceased –  Patricia Ann Brooks, 53, of Berkeley Springs – was found by firefighters in an SUV parked in the yard of the residence. Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer identified Brooks from her DMV photo.

Investigators have determined that Brooks died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Her vehicle, pulled off to the side of the home into a grassy area, was not burned in the house fire. Brooks was found in the front seat of the vehicle with her seatbelt on, said Bohrer.

Two other bodies were found in the rubble of the burned home in the hours after firefighters extinguished the blaze before sunrise Saturday morning.

Asst. Chief D.J. Zahnow of the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company, who commanded the fire scene, said the house was fully engulfed when he arrived just after 4:30 a.m. Fire units from three states tackled the fire by 5:44 a.m., said Zahnow.

It was during an initial 360-degree sweep around the home that a firefighter found Patricia Brooks dead in an SUV in the yard. The neighbor who had reported the fire told 911 that three people lived at the home, so firefighters searched for evidence of residents as they arrived on scene, said Zahnow.

Sheriff  Bohrer said the bodies found in the basement of the collapsed home are presumed to be the other residents of the house – Carroll Brooks, 73, and Carl Brooks, 33. The father’s body was found wrapped in what appeared to be a blue plastic tarp, said Bohrer. The other body was found in another section of the basement. Police believe both bodies would have fallen from the first floor when the house  collapsed in the fire. The bodies have been take to the West Virginia Medical Examiner's Office and their identity will only be confirmed through post mortem examination, said the sheriff.

Neither Carroll Brooks nor his son Carl have been accounted for after the fire and it appears neither had been seen or heard from since early last week, said Bohrer. Family members told investigators they had been trying to reach the elder Brooks prior to Thanksgiving, but his wife answered in text messages that he was away or helping a friend.

Later, police were told that Carroll Brooks’ pickup truck, normally parked in the driveway, had been moved to a spot up against the back of the home’s basement, where it was hidden from the road. The truck was destroyed in the fire.

Family members told Bohrer that the son was known to have diagnosed mental health issues and did not often leave the home.

Assistant State Fire Marshal George Harms confirmed that his office is conducting a “joint investigation” with the Sheriff’s Department.

“We have collected evidence and submitting it for further analysis,” Harms said in an email on Monday.

The sheriff said police are still seeking information from anyone who may have had contact with any of the victims in the week or two prior to their deaths.  The Sheriff can be reached at 304-258-1067. Anonymous tips can also be called in through Crime Solvers at 304-258-2450.

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Just awful. I saw the remarks

Just awful. I saw the remarks of one of the daughters of the father on Facebook. She said she had been calling.