Ranch fire victim focus of
By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer
The investigation into the Bellevue ranch
fire that took the life of a 36-year-old caretaker March 23 is now focusing on
the possibility the fire and extensive vandalism were caused by the caretaker
whose badly burned body was found in the main two-story house.
"Weíre not sure," replied Blaine County
Sheriff Walt Femling when asked whether the dead woman, Mary E. Hanson, was a
suspect and whether she was the only one involved in the fire.
Femling said blood samples taken from the
main house as well as the nearby guest house and caretaker home were sent to an
Illinois laboratory to determine if it was Hansonís blood found in the
buildings. The Illinois lab, he said, could provide faster results, since the
Idaho State Police laboratory is overloaded with a backlog of crime
"We donít know if she started the fire or
if it was accidental," the sheriff said. That will be determined by an
investigator from the Idaho Fire Marshalís Office.
Units of Wood River Fire and Rescue
arrived at the fire just after 9 a.m. Sunday, March 23, but could not control
the blaze until about 10:45. The remote location at 40 Fox Hollow Gulch Road is
a ranch of more than 50 acres several miles west of Bellevue, owned by Richard
Barker, of Belvedere, Calif., who uses it as a second home.
The sheriff said Barker told him by phone
that he hadnít visited the property since December, and could provide no
information as to why the home wouldíve been vandalized and possibly torched.
Femling said he has not talked to Barker since the one conversation immediately
after the fire.
Services for Hanson, who was identified
from dental records, were held in her hometown of Anaconda, Mont.