ALEXANDER COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – Two people have been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection to a house fire that left two people dead and one person missing.
Investigators believe the two bodies found in the charred home belong to a woman and her child, but they say they are unable to confirm the identities because the bodies are so badly burned.
Monday, crews began searching waters along Highway 16 in the Riverbend Park area near the Oxford Dam for a body connected to the case.
The fire was intentionally set at a home on Pine Meadows Lane in Alexander County lat Saturday night. Crews arrived at the scene shortly after and worked to extinguish the flames, but the reported use of an accelerant allowed the fire to spread before it was eventually contained.
On Monday, police said 30-year-old Areli Aguiree Avilez and 16-year-old Heidi Darlene Wolfe were each charged with three counts of murder in connection to the case. Investigators have not released any more details about the pair’s arrest but confirmed they are being held without bond.
While investigators continue looking into the source of the fire and who was responsible, officials are also trying to positively identify the two bodies in the home so they can then determine who the missing third person is.
“Anytime there is a fatality anywhere — especially in a fire, especially being children — it’s harder,” said Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman. “It’s just harder to accept.”
They say the woman lived in the trailer with a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.
The initial person of interest was Avilez, a boyfriend of the woman living at the home with her two children. Avilez had recently had a domestic violence order taken out against him for threatening to set fire to her home. Hours after he was found walking along a nearby road and taken into custody, however, he was released by the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office with no charges filed – until he was arrested on the murder charges Monday.
In the court papers for the domestic violence order, the woman claims that Avilez had assaulted her and “Threatened to burn her house down.” That order expired on Sunday, hours after the fire and the bodies were discovered.
Authorities are not saying what the breakthrough in the case was on Monday. Avilez was called to come to the Sheriff’s office for a talk. He showed up and was arrested. The vehicle he came in was seized and will be searched by investigators. Meanwhile, authorities are still awaiting word from Homeland Security officials as to Avilez’s immigration status.
“For something to happen like this it’s uncalled for that you have to do bodily harm to another individual because of either jealousy or you can’t get along is unacceptable,” said Bowman.
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