Authorities have launched investigations into two suspicious fires on consecutive nights that led to the deaths of area women.
Texas County Sheriff Carl Watson said Sally J. Wofford died of a gunshot wound before her home at Highway 137 and Dixon Road south of Licking was set on fire Monday morning. A second blaze Tuesday night north of Raymondville – near the scene of the first fatality – at 19953 Highway V appeared to be arson, authorities said. A body pulled from the rubble is believed to be Peggy Worlow, 46, a former Houston resident. An autopsy is slated today.
Guy Ceplina, Raymondville’s fire chief, said his department was called at 9:01 p.m. to the report Worlow’s house fire. Ceplina said the blaze appeared to have started in a southeast corner of the home.
“It’s suspicious in nature, so the fire marshal is involved,” he said. Firemen at the scene said they believed there appeared to be burn patterns in the residence.
About 22 firefighters from Raymondville and Licking were at the rock house that was totally engulfed. Damage to the structure is significant. Once extinguished, the fire rekindled in an attic and more water was sent from Licking early Wednesday morning, Ceplina said. Several agencies spent the night at the fire scene.
Reports of a blaze at Wofford’s home, where she resided with Tom Hamrick, her live-in boyfriend the past 12 years, were first made at 9:30 a.m. Monday. Firemen from Licking and Raymondville responded to the residence, where the 65-year-old woman was reportedly home alone.
Watson said firefighters pulled Wofford through the front window of the one-story brick home. She was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy Tuesday revealed the Wofford, a 20-year veteran of Rees Trucking Company before retiring a few years ago ago, died of a gunshot wound to the head before the fire started, he said.
Hamrick was at the house – which showed no visible signs of the fire from the outside except for yellow police tape across the front of the ranch-style home – Tuesday afternoon waiting for an insurance adjuster. Windows of the home were broken and the interior was gutted.
Hamrick, who is taking time off from a truck-driving job, said he was visiting a friend Monday when the blaze began. He said he returned to find firemen and other emergency personnel on the scene.
Records show that Wofford transferred ownership of the property to herself and Hamrick in 2004.
Watson, who was at the home Wednesday with investigator Kirby Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said a lengthy investigation including the state fire marshal’s office could ensue.
More updates on the fires at houstonherald.com as news occurs.