Farmer found murdered in ashes of home
CRESWELL, Ore. - Neighbors saw a home at Kelley's Hog Farm go up in flames a week ago.
One of them sent Liz Washington a photo of the fire.
Sshe desperately tried to call Dennis Kelley, her neighbor of 25 years.
Her messages went unanswered.
"He was always sharing what he had, everything that he had: produce, food, meats, salmon, gouda cheese," Washington said Wednesday. "He was a sweet old man."
The fire took almost an hour to control.
Three firefighters suffered problems from the July heat.
And they made a grisly discovery in the ashes.
"Our shift supervisor got down there and started taking a look at the scene along with fire, and they discovered some evidence that there may be human remains in what was left of the foundation of the property," Lt. Cliff Harrold said.
In the aftermath, swine milled around between rigs from the sheriff's office.
"It took a considerable period of time before we knew how much of a criminal investigation this was," Harrold said.
Two men who lived on the farm were officially "unaccounted for," although some officials said the day after the fire that there were fatalities.
Official confirmation of fatalities came Tuesday, almost a week after the fire.
"The fire burned so hot that at this point we don't even know if the bodies are male or female," Sgt. Carrie Carver with the Lane County Sheriff's Office said.
On Wednesday: the identities of the deceased - the two missing men - and an arrest: a local man with no fixed address, charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder and 1 count of arson.
Harrold said four investigators worked hundreds of hours and sifted through dozens of leads before landing on 42-year-old Eugene Whitehall, a tranisent who had previously worked for the two victims.
"Mr. Kelley periodically offered work and room and board in exchange for work on the hog farm," Harrold said. "Mr. Whitehall had previously been associated with the farm, although he hadn't been staying there recently."
Washington knew Whitehall.
"He helped pack up our moving van," He worked his be-hind off for two solid days," Washington said. "I was really surprised to see that, but I guess maybe they had some conflicts, not sure what."