Arson investigators work house fire connected to Stroupe case

A house fire broke out late Thursday night at a home connected to three suspects charged with felony accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in the Phillip Stroupe II case. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Investigators, including the State Bureau of Investigation, were combing through debris Friday after a suspicious fire destroyed a home in Barnardsville overnight.

"I came out to my front porch, and I could see blazes," neighbor Frances Bradley said. "Something burning, that's all I could see."

The home destroyed in the fire is where three people allegedly allowed accused killer Phillip Stroupe II to stay while multiple agencies searched for him during a massive manhunt.

In a 911 call about the fire, Barnardsville command asked for an investigator. When dispatch asked if the fire is arson, command replied, "Probably so."

The Buncombe Arson Task Force is investigating.

Jennifer Hawkins, her nephew Larry Hawkins III, and her boyfriend Frederick Badgero have been charged with felony accessory after the fact to the first-degree murder of Tommy Bryson. The three are also charged with helping Stroupe II, who is now charged with first-degree murder in the death of Bryson, avoid authorities.

All three have maintained their innocence, saying Stroupe threatened them into cooperating. They are in custody in the Buncombe County Jail and haven't been at the house for days.

Investigators haven't released any details about a possible cause of the fire or what they may or may not have found at the scene. And they have not said whether they searched the home before the fire.

Fire crews were dispatched at 11:28 p.m. Thursday, and the house was fully engulfed. The 911 calls to report the fire have not been released.

The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, Barnardsville Fire Department, Reems Creek Fire Department and Weaverville Fire Department were all on scene.

The home sits in a remote area on a hillside with other homes nearby.

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