Burning questions surround Beardstown fatal fire

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The family of a Beardstown father and daughter who died in a fire more than two years ago want answers.

They also want employees behind a 911 call rife with mistakes and missteps held accountable.

Bud and Jenny Krohe died when Bud's mobile home went up in flames April 15, 2012.

Two years have passed since that fatal fire but few details have emerged about what happened.

Marvin Krohe lost his brother and niece in the tragic fire just three miles away from his home south of Beardstown.

"It's a big loss," he said. "I used to go by here quite often when he was here. He'd always be out here in the yard or the kids would be out here. We could stop and talk to him. I really miss that."

Bud Krohe's sons, Tobias Krohe, Chris Krohe and Mark Connor, issued this statement to KHQA:

"Jenny and Bud Krohe cannot rest in peace until this case is solved. We cannot ignore the text messages sent to Jenny the night of the fire with apparent references to a fire. When we learned about the disgusting 911 tapes, we knew then the investigation was compromised. We want justice and closure."

Krohe and Connor are referring to a 911 call in which the dispatcher needed convincing that there really was a fire. Beardstown's assistant fire chief told the dispatcher that he wasn't going to respond to the fire unless someone else could confirm it.

Tobias Krohe and Mark Connor say they've filed complaints with the City of Beardstown against Assistant Fire Chief Keith Reller and Acting Fire Chief Darin Paul. Paul declined to comment for this story. The family also says they've filed a complaint in Cass County against dispatcher Damon McComb and filed a lawsuit in Cass County Court last month against Reller and Paul.

The city, however, responded to KHQA, stating "there are no documents responsive to a complaint at law against the named individuals, nor is the City aware of any complaint at law pending against said individuals."

Frank Williams from Havana, Illinois made the 911 call that night. As a former police officer, he told KHQA he was very frustrated that night by the prolonged response time by the Beardstown Fire Department. He said the home was burned to the ground by the time he arrived. Williams said no one could've survived the fire by the time he noticed it. However, he said if he would've driven by a half hour earlier, the fire department's response time could've made a difference between life and death.

Bud Krohe's autopsy revealed traces of cyanide. Cass County Coroner Wyatt Sager said cyanide is a common side effect of intense smoke inhalation. Sager said a forensic pathologist found no evidence of injuries to Bud and Jenny Krohe's bodies and concluded that they died of smoke inhalation. He thinks a lighted cigarette sparked the fire. Sager said strong wind gusts and 8 to 10 propane tank heaters in the home added to the fire's intensity.

An Illinois Fire Marshal's report lists the fire as undetermined and has closed its investigation.

Former Fire Chief Bobby Joe Brown used to serve on the Beardstown Fire Department for 17 years.

"A fire investigation is very complicated, and there's a lot involved," he said. "You rely on scientific method and develop hypothesis. If you cannot come up with a hypothesis and 100 percent cause of that fire, then you have to leave it as undetermined."

Those words do not appease the Krohe family.

"It's still a puzzle," Krohe said. "I would still like to know exactly what happened. I do hope they get to the bottom of it."

KHQA spoke with two witnesses who saw Bud and Jenny Krohe the night of the fire.

They both said they saw threatening messages to Jenny on Bud's phone that called her a name and threatened her with a fire.

Those witnesses said Bud's phone was destroyed in the fire.

If you have any information about the fatal fire at the home of Bud Krohe in Beardstown, you're asked to contact the Cass County sheriff's office at 217-452-7718 or Crimestoppers at 888-222-4150.

To read documents obtained through KHQA's Freedom of Information Act request, click on the following links:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4