Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said his department is continuing an "active criminal investigation" into a pair of house fires on Dead Indian Memorial Road earlier this month and the death of a man who lived in one of the destroyed homes.
Two fires — at 18196 and 12801 Dead Indian Memorial Road — were reported about an hour apart in the early morning hours of Sept. 4. Both homes burned to the ground and a man's body was found inside the cabin at the summit, where David Lewis, 46, had lived for more than two decades. The other cabin, near the intersection with Keno Access Road, was a summer home occupied only on weekends, neighbors and authorities said.
"Investigators are working on this case," Winters said Wednesday. "They've done lots of interviews."
They haven't confirmed the identity of the dead man, although Lewis' friends and family held a memorial for him on the mountain Sept. 14.
Investigators contacted several local dentists but couldn't come up with recent dental records for Lewis. DNA samples from the body found in Lewis' cabin and from Lewis' family members have been sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, a national program supported in part by the Department of Justice.
An autopsy was done, but Winters declined to release the cause of death.
He said details of the investigation can't be made public, but detectives are tracking down every clue.
"It's an odd set of circumstances to have two residences burn down at the same time in this remote location," said Winters, who owns property and spends time in the rural area in the mountains east of Ashland.
Theories about what might have happened and safety concerns have circulated through the mountaintop community, where residents in search of details about the shocking crime are eager to chat with the sheriff.
Winters said he has no information to indicate people or homes there are at any additional risk.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.