Arson investigators are calling a fire at the home of a slain Willard couple “unintentional.” Detectives say faulty wiring in the attic caused the fire that destroyed the former home of slain Rebecca and Russell Porter.
On April 17, Rebecca and Russell Porter disappeared from their home at 6703 N. State Highway HH in Willard. Around 4:40 Monday morning, crime scene tape again surrounded the home. The charred home held memories of the couple. "I didn't believe it at first," Rebecca’s son Corey Ellsworth said. "It's sad my mom poured her heart into that house." A son already struggling to deal with the death of his mother and her husband, was slightly suspicious of the fire. "It raises an eyebrow," Ellsworth said.
Initially, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was also suspicious. "Just like every other viewer out there I'm thinking you have the suspicion right off the bat,” Arnott told reporters early Monday morning. “We are working this investigation from the arson standpoint. We'll work backward if we determine it is accidental."
Neighbors say Russell Porter’s cousin, Tim Campbell, was living in the home at the time of the fire. Campbell talked to KSPR News in July after a tip lead investigators to the couple's bodies in a rural part of Taney County. The sheriff would not confirm Campbell lived in the home. He would only say a relative of Russell Porter, who was living in the home, reported the fire. "The resident and a neighbor were attempting to put out the fire," Arnott said. "There were no injuries only some minor things, maybe some smoke inhalation."
Around 2:30 Monday afternoon, detectives determined faulty electrical wiring in the attic caused the fire. "Everything we've been going through, this doesn't make it any easier," Ellsworth said. The family continues to wait for justice nearly seven months after the couple's disappearance. Ellsworth asks anyone with information to call the Greene County Sheriff’s Office at 417-868-4040. "Come forward, tell us what you know,” Ellsworth said. “We still care. We still need to figure out who did this."
Arson investigators waited for the flames to be put out to collect evidence at the scene. The sheriff says the fire should not affect the double homicide investigation. "Any evidence we needed for our homicide case we have gathered," Arnott said.
911 dispatch records reviewed by KSPR News show Monday’s fire is the fifth fire since September of last year within 3,000 feet of the home Russell and Rebecca Porter lived in. On September 30, 2010, another home owned by relatives of Russell Porter caught fire at 6791 N. State Highway HH in Willard. A fire outside was reported the same day at the same address. On April 16, 2010, a fire outside was reported at the home Russell and Rebecca Porter shared. Someone reported another fire on January 28 of this year on west Foothill Lane.
Greene County Sheriff's Office New Release: On November 14, 2011 at approximately 0440 hours Greene County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to 6703 N. State Hwy HH to assist with a residential fire. (This is the former home of Russell and Rebecca Porter) Deputies arrived at 0452 hours and observed the residence as being fully engulfed by fire. Deputies assisted
by providing traffic control as personnel from the Willard Fire Department, the Ebeneezer Fire Department and the Pleasant View Fire Department arrived to extinguish the fire.
Greene County Sheriff’s arson investigators also responded and determined that
this fire was unintentional. Investigators determined the cause as faulty electrical
wiring in the attic of the structure. There were no injuries sustained as a result of this fire, the residential structure was completely destroyed.