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Fire investigation at a 'standstill'

By Ed Brock

Henry County Fire Department investigators are at a "standstill" in their efforts to determine the cause of a blaze that killed a 4-year-old Hampton girl last month.

What is known is that the fire started Dec. 12 in the living room of the home on Marcus Lane in the Legacy Lakes subdivision, where Kayla Jackson was sleeping around 11:30 p.m. Kayla's 7-year-old sister, Teresa, and mother, Addlyn, were also in the house but escaped the blaze. Her father, Riter Jackson, was on a late-night shopping trip with the couple's other two children, 6-year-old Jalyn and 2-year-old Devaughn, and returned after the house was already ablaze.

All possible accidental causes of the fire have been eliminated, including faulty wiring or a discarded cigarette, said Henry County Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett, and all of the family members have been interviewed. The investigators have done all they know to do to determine the cause, Puckett said, and the case has not been closed.

"It will remain open until if or when new information becomes available," Puckett said.

That new information could include lab results or other information provided by witnesses.

Not knowing a cause is "a thorn in our side," said Kelly Jackson, Kayla's uncle who lives on the same street. "Not knowing what caused the fire is irrational, it doesn't make any sense."

On the night of the fire, Teresa Jackson, awakened by the smoke alarm, discovered the fire and ran next door to a neighbor's house. Kelly Jackson said his niece saw that a loveseat was on fire.

Puckett said the loveseat was in the area of the origin of the fire, which is the living room.

Investigators also are not labeling the fire suspicious at this time, but only "undetermined."

The common obstacles in any fire investigation include the extent of damage from the fire, perished evidence and missing pieces of evidence or information.

After a fire, investigators try to put the interior of the home back together as it was before the fire, according to Puckett, specifically in the area of origin. Many times there is simply not much left to put back together.

The Jackson home was destroyed in the fire, but they plan to rebuild. Many local businesses, such as the Wal-Mart in McDonough and Kelly Jackson's employer, MARTA, along with members of the community, have made donations to help the family get through the holidays.

Also, the company that Addlyn Jackson works for has provided the family with an apartment for one year while they rebuild, Kelly Jackson said. Jackson added that his brother, Riter, and sister-in-law, Addlyn, are taking things day-by-day and trying to be strong for their remaining children.

"Everything is just being put back into place," Kelly Jackson said. "I know my niece has a guaranteed spot in heaven."