The house fire that claimed the lives of two Guthrie Center juveniles early Monday has been ruled a case of arson by the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office, and an investigation has begun, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
The victims, Melanie “Paige” Exline, 12, and her cousin, Shakiah Cockerham, 16, both of Guthrie Center, died in the fire that completely destroyed the house at 1005 Main St. in Guthrie Center.
A criminal investigation into the arson and deaths was begun by the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s office in cooperation Guthrie County Sheriff’s office, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner.
The juvenile victim’s uncle, 54-year-old William Long III suffered severe burns to his upper body and was flown to Omaha, Neb., where he remains hospitalized. The children’s grandmother, 74-year-old Shirley Exline, suffered minor injuries. Exline owns the property.
Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the Guthrie County Sheriff’s office at 641-747-2214.
ThePerryNews.com will update this story as information becomes available.