ATF continues investigation at Annapolis mansion fire

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2 more bodies found in ruins of Maryland mansion.

Two more bodies have been pulled from the wreck of an Annapolis mansion that burned to the ground this week with four children and their grandparents trapped inside. In the statement Clint and Randy Boone, sons of Sandy Pyle — and stepsons of Don Pyle — thank first responders and say their families need time to heal. “On behalf of the Boone and Pyle families, we wish to express our gratitude and appreciation for the love and support being shared with us during this tragic event.At their $6 million Annapolis mansion, Don and Sandra Pyle could never do too much for her sons’ kids, transforming the sprawling eight-acre estate into a children’s carnival with water slides, moon bounces and pony rides. Crews found two bodies on Thursday, the second day of excavating the site, and two bodies on Wednesday, according to Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Don, especially, reveled in the games of hide-and-seek and make-believe tussles. “It was like he was raising the children he never had,” said Jon Bierman, a longtime friend of the wealthy technology executive. “He put everything into them.” The four Boone kids — Lexi, 8, and Katie, 7, along with their first cousins Charlotte, 8, and Wes, 6 — went to a sleepover at their grandparents’ home on Sunday because Monday was a holiday, a family spokeswoman said.

Together, they watched knights joust and ate dinner in a banquet setting before heading back to their own castle, as the Pyles’ 16,000-square-foot home was known to neighbors. Six people — tech executive Don Pyle; his wife, Sandra; and their four grandchildren — have been unaccounted for since a massive blaze reduced a 16,000-square-foot waterfront mansion built in 2005 to smoldering ruins early Monday.

Early Monday morning, an inferno consumed the mansion, bringing down its seven-ton steel beams and reducing to ash a structure the size of seven average single-family houses. Investigators would not say whether the bodies found were those of adults or children, only that they are being sent to the Office of the State Medical Examiner in Baltimore for identification.

All six are presumed dead: 56-year-old Don Pyle and his wife Sandra, 63, and the children, 8-year-old Lexi, 7-year-old Katie, 8-year-old Charlotte and 6-year-old Wes. The Pyles and their grandchildren — Alexis “Lexi” Boone, 8; Charlotte Boone, 8; Kaitlyn “Katie” Boone, 7; and Wesley Boone, 6 — all were inside when the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. On Thursday, they also brought in a dog that specializes in sniffing out gasoline and other accelerants that may spark fires. “I never knew that I could hurt this badly. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has deployed a team that includes heavy equipment needed to removed the heavy stonework and steel beams that collapsed during the fire into the home’s basement.

The children’s parents — Randy and Stacey Boone, parents of Lexi and Katie, and Clint and Eve Boone, parents of Charlotte and Wes — issued a joint statement Thursday thanking fire officials for their efforts and for family, friends and neighbors who have offered their support. Cheplak echoed the need to comb carefully through the evidence, a process that could take weeks. “Anytime you have a family of six people killed in a home, it’s certainly not commonplace,” he said. “Nobody is taking it as routine.” He would not comment on whether the accelerant dog found anything suspicious, but he did say that cadaver dogs have been instrumental in helping crews pinpoint where to dig for bodies. Jon Bierman has been a friend and business associate since the late 1990s. “Seeing him [become a grandfather] was a lot of fun,” Bierman said. “He loved the sleepovers.

Sleepovers were common; trips were common.” Brooke Moore, a swimming instructor who taught the children, said Wes and Katie were fearless in the pool — Wes wanted to learn to do handstands; Lexi was a quick study who learned multiple strokes. In the summer, they boated; in the winter, they took Sandy’s sons on ski trips to Pennsylvania. “I was able to get in on the ground floor in some of the companies that were based in Silicon Valley,” he told The Washington Post in an October interview, after becoming chief operating officer of ScienceLogic, a Northern Virginia computer networking company.

Officials at the Severn School’s lower campus, for children in kindergarten through grade 5, canceled classes Tuesday but made counselors available to speak with children, families and teachers. Randy, the older of the two boys, eventually followed in Don’s professional footsteps, holding jobs at a pair of companies his stepfather helped run: Netcordia and Infoblox, according to his LinkedIn profile. In cases where bodies can’t be immediately identified, he said, pathologists may use fingerprints, dental records, medical records or DNA evidence, which can take “an extended period of time.” The first firefighters arrived on the scene within two minutes. Fire officials said they are using crime scene procedures in case they discover any evidence that might be needed in any legal proceedings, but they said they have no reason to believe there was any foul play.

Special Agent William McMullan said that specialists from across the country were headed to Annapolis, and would send in trained dogs to sniff out any traces of accelerant chemicals, which would help determine whether the blaze could have been a deliberate attack. Robert Howarth, commander of the county fire department’s fire and explosives investigation unit, said on Tuesday that investigators were treating the site as a crime scene.

Howarth said that is a common practice when there are no eyewitnesses, and it means only that anything recovered in the investigation would be admissible in court. Two years ago, when the Delaware football team played Navy in Annapolis, the Pyles hosted an event for alumni and school leaders of Don’s alma mater, said his former lacrosse coach, Bob Shillinglaw. She also had a deep love for the rescue dogs she took in, feeding them leftover prime rib or — when the family ordered pizza — their own cheeseburgers. They turned their expansive basement into a playroom for sleepovers and took the children on trips to Disney World and Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor water park.

Photographs of the mansion before it burned down show at least four cars parked outside the elegant stone construction, which has several turrets as part of its architecture.

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