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Man quizzed after 4 are found killed in Lancaster house fire

Deputies say he is not a suspect. The victims are not identified, but a man says they are his wife and daughters.

September 10, 2008|Ann M. Simmons and Ruben Vives | Times Staff Writers

Authorities are questioning an 18-year-old man whom they described as an "associate or friend" of four homicide victims whose bodies were found early Tuesday after their Lancaster home was set on fire.

Corey King of Lancaster called authorities about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday after hearing his name on a television news broadcast that said he was wanted for questioning and he agreed to meet with investigators, said Lt. Patrick Nelson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

King is believed to have been at the victims' house in the 1500 block of East Avenue J-3 on Monday night, Nelson said. According to members of the victims' family, King "was present last night and he might have been there fairly late," he said.

"We're certainly not naming him as a suspect," Nelson said. "We just want to speak with him about what other information he might have. . . . He is one of the few folks who might have some knowledge that we haven't had a chance to speak with yet."

A car connected to the house was found at a nearby Wal-Mart, where a break-in occurred shortly after the house began burning, Nelson said, adding that the two incidents were connected.

Wal-Mart security guards unsuccessfully attempted to detain a man after the break-in, Nelson said.

Investigators found "visible trauma" to the victims, whose bodies were found in separate locations inside the home, Nelson said, but he did not elaborate.

It was unclear if the fire, which appeared to have started in the attached garage, was set before or after the victims were killed, he said.

The bodies were discovered about 7 a.m. by firefighters, who extinguished the blaze in about 20 minutes, said Inspector Sam Padilla of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The bodies appeared to be those of one adult and three young adults or teenagers, he said.

Outside the home in the Fair Sky Estates subdivision, Gregory Stewart received a phone call while standing in front of reporters and learned that his wife and three daughters -- ages 8, 12 and 14 -- had been killed. "Oh Lord, it's my wife," Stewart said, leaning on a sign pole on the sidewalk for support. "Don't tell me that, please don't tell me that. Are you sure?"

Stewart said that deputies had found his wife's car at Wal-Mart. "It just doesn't add up," he said.

Two women standing outside the house who did not want to be identified said they were co-workers of the dead woman and an older daughter at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Santa Clarita.

"It was a shock," one of the women said. "She was a good person."

"It's not right for this to happen to her and her family," Evelyn Burrell, another friend of the victim, said as she wept. "She was a beautiful person with an open heart."

Palmdale resident Margaret Lett said the dead woman had two older daughters and a son in addition to her three younger girls. "I'm just so sorry for them," Lett said. "Their son is with my son in Arizona right now. They grew up together."

Neighbors described the community of east Lancaster as having a "pretty rough reputation."

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ann.simmons@latimes.com

ruben.vives@latimes.com

Times staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report.

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